Rude Doctors, Rude Nurses, Rude Patients?
Being rude to anyone at any time does not elevate you to a higher or more powerful position, right? I recently read a NYT's article -- Rude Doctors, Rude Nurses, Rude Patients. I understand all sides of this equation -- except there might have been a mention of rude family members as well. They're/we're out there too.
I agree with Mr. Perri Klass, M.D. that rudeness begets rudeness in the end.
However, I also believe that many (not all) medical professional's behavior when communicating with their patients may not be classified as rude, but perhaps -- less caring and compassionate than we -- as patients -- might prefer. Our experience of clinicians is that they're straight forward, speak in technical/medical jargon that at best is difficult to decipher unless you are of course a physician yourself -- and at worst leaves the patient feeling inferior, and more vulnerable. This can all and often be interpreted as a medical professional lacks the empathy when they deliver a prognosis or clarify a condition.
Sometimes "we" feel or experience "them" as being cold, aloof, disconnected to the feelings and emotions we have during a fearful moment of our life. All of these result in perceptions in the minds and hearts of patients and their families.
I'm not saying all patients feel this way (that their medical team is disconnected, condescending and . . . ok rude . . . sometimes) as I'm sure not all doctors, nurses, social workers and case workers feel the same (that patients are barking orders and demanding explanations and being . . . alright . . . rude). However, this sometimes occurs despite the best of intentions.
Understandably doctors have limited time to speak to patients and their families and therefore, there's pressure (unconscious perhaps) to cut to the chase, deliver the message and move on to the next room. The time restrictions that doctors and nurses are faced with is at odds with what makes a patient feel best. So, what's the solution?
Money is a significant factor in healthcare and costs continue to rise with no end in sight. It would be an interesting experiment to see and measure over time the impact on patients (outcome, satisfaction and re-admission levels) if a bit more time was given in explaining what is and is going to happen. No one likes not knowing what to expect. I'm a firm believer having been a long-term patient in ICU, rehabilitation and on the transplant floor of a hospital for a year, that over explaining things to patients and their families in the end would save hospitals and healthcare systems money and time. It would also make for happier and healthier patients.