Some days, one patient encounter gone awry can feel like it throws off the entire day. Give it some distance, though, and zoom out for better perspective, and suddenly it's clear that there are many ways to respond to the same problem.
If every patient we encounter has the same problem, how many ways can they respond?
- Relief. Every so often, having a name for what you're experiencing helps to find the strength to acknowledge it and want to address it.
- Validation. This might be the first time someone really listens to, and confirms, what has been a problem.
- Disappointment. So much for hoping it was no big deal, or just a figment of the imagination.
- Frustration. Why does something always have to happen? Why now? And why is everything so hard?
- Anxiousness. More stress on top of stress, and stress about all the stress.
- Exhaustion. Here's yet another problem in a long list of problems.
- Depression. Life is hard, and this makes for more than can be handled. Treatment for depression in the wake of acquired communication deficits can be especially daunting.
- Apathy. Too much else going on to really take notice or care.
- Neutrality. Knowing it's there, but not minding it one way or another.
- Anger. Directing feelings of anxiety, depression, frustration, et al outwardly, towards loved ones, strangers, or clinicians.
One sudden life change can take away everything someone was working toward or enjoying. Sometimes the things not talked about are the things most profoundly affected. Meeting our patients where they are can go a long way to providing the best care we can for them, right here and now.
One thing I like to keep in mind: If I'm angry, the last thing I want to be told is that I shouldn't be angry.