Friday, February 3, 2012
Being Alone With a Healthcare Provider
Alone with the Doctor
I got a text message from my teenage son who is away at college and he tells me he is at the nurse with his female friend and the nurse told him to leave the room. Yes, the same son who asked a doctor to wash her hands and got an “annoyed attitude”. As her advocate he expected to stay with her.
I reminded him that the nurse may have wanted to ask her about her sex life, drug use or sexually transmitted disease and was not going to ask, or expect an honest answer, in front of him.
“She fell and hit her head, it has nothing to do with sexually transmitted diseases” he told me. But, I explained to him, being pregnant might make a girl become dizzy or, was she actually being beaten or abused?
It was a good reminder that patients need time alone with their healthcare provider. As advocates, we tend to want to be with the patient – always – but it doesn’t always make sense.
A few years ago I was at the bedside of a patient following her surgery when the nurse was asking standard questions; do you smoke, snore, are you safe at home………?
I later pulled the nurse aside and suggested that a question about a patient’s safety be asked privately. “What if I were the one abusing her?” I asked the nurse.
Although we want to be with our loved one, it makes sense to leave a husband, wife, friend or other family member alone at some point to have these private discussions with their healthcare provider if they want. One way to do this is to say ahead of time to the patient, “I don’t mind leaving you alone to talk privately with your doctor”. If warned in advance, it can be done at any time during a visit. A patient can always say “no, stay with me” but it gives them an opportunity to be alone and not offend you.