Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Let the Little Boy Cry
A little boy about 10 years old fell off his bike and ran to the grownups to be patched up. His mother and the other adults told him “don’t worry, you will be fine” without ever asking him what’s on his mind.
The next day his bandages had blood on them and it seemed his cuts may have opened up. He brought his concerns about a bloody bandage to the grownups. Again he was told don’t worry and this time was told no one ever died from blood on the bandage. This was a second time the grownups decided he could not speak about his concerns. Did they or he, even know what they were?
A wet, bloody bandage should not be OK on a hospitalized patient. It should not be OK on a boy riding his bike. Blood seeping through a bandage should be questioned. Telling a child he /she won’t die because they have a cut or worse, is not addressing what they are concerned about. Are we raising children to not question the care they receive because when they want to cry, they are told things like “you won’t die from that”?
Play this same scene out when a 60 year old woman has indigestion that seems ”weird” and the doctor says no one ever died from indigestion so she stops in her tracks from questioning the care she received. An adult questions that maybe she is getting the wrong medication - and a nurse says “stop worrying so much”.
When people are frustrated, scared or inconvenienced by sickness or an injury, healthcare providers as well as friends or family members often respond to what they, themselves think the patient / person is feeling or in ways that make themselves feel better. They respond with what makes them comfortable in the conversation.
In our Family Centered Patient Advocacy training tools we use a scenario of a woman screaming in the bed at a hospital that she wants to go home. Nurses are too busy to release her, the doctor isn’t available and she has everyone on her floor angry at her. When I asked her why she wants to go home she explained her child will be getting off the bus and she needs to be there. One phone call to be sure her daughter was met at the bus stop and the patient was fine. No one asked why she was so desperate to leave. They assumed she just didn’t want to be there.
Not asking what is troubling someone such as tell me why are you upset and crying, what are you concerned about or how can I help make you feel better, is closing the conversation to learning and even more important - building relationships.