They would act as though nothing is wrong.
I wrote this quote down on my pad during the Lewis Blackman video that was shown today because I’ve been guilty of this during rotations myself. Hellen Haskell, Lewis’ mother, was talking about the nurse taking care of her son and the fact that nursing notes ultimately revealed that she was indeed deeply concerned about the patient and his deteriorating clinical condition.
The truth is I don’t quite know how to act (maybe act is the wrong word) or rather what emotions to show around families. No one ever tells you to show a impassive face, to act as if everything is proceeding according to plan even when your team is struggling to figure out what is wrong, yet this is exactly what one learns observing the behavior of residents and attendings.
I suppose I always assumed that it was more comforting for families to feel like the providers had a handle on the situation. However, having heard from the patient and patient family perspective, I recognize how isolating and invalidated it can be to feel as if you are the only one concerned about your loved one’s care. While there is a time, a place, and an extent to which to share one’s emotions with patients and their families, honest communication throughout a patient’s stay can create a foundation of trust that can be critical in the terrible event an adverse outcome occurs.