Differing Opinions

Uh oh,  it’s February and this is my first post of the year… Oops! I have a couple in my drafts but I need to let some time pass before publishing.

I just wanted to throw a quick question out there to my fellow health professionals as it’s an issue I’ve encountered a few times recently. What do you do when a patient says something you really disagree with, expecting a reply, and you know you’re going to be stuck in the examination room with them for an awkward few minutes?

I had to endure a patient’s hateful anti-cyclist diatribe shortly after attending a nasty cycling related trauma call. He even trotted out the ridiculous “they don’t even pay road tax” nonsense. I kept my mouth shut and refrained from providing my opinion because it wouldn’t have been appropriate, but it was a very uncomfortable experience for me.

How do you deal with these situations?

4 Comments on Differing Opinions

  1. Sumanth
    February, 16th 2014 at 8:55 pm

    There was a patient with fractured ankle in A&E. He was talking to another patient in the waiting area and telling her how people from Asia
    (the term he used was ‘Asians’) do not offer him seat on public transport. He was saying that with me booking other patients in at the A&E reception and sometimes he even made eye contact with me. What can we do? I ended up doing his Ankle projections. He wasn’t complaining then. However, the point is, I guess we should just nod or acknowledge what they have said without approving or agreeing and get along with our jobs. But, I do understand that in your case it is difficult especially after attending a trauma case of a cyclist.

  2. Cherry Black
    February, 17th 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Sumanth! How’s things?
    I think this is a particularly difficult area because at least if they’re actually being abusive towards you, there are protocols and procedures that you can follow, such as involving security or even refusing to examine them.

    If they say something that you consider offensive, it’s a bit of a grey area, as offence is very subjective, and if they’re not deliberately targeting you, what can you do?

    I prefer to just pretend I didn’t hear it and make the examination as brief as possible, but that can still be excruciatingly awkward.

  3. Jon Kitching
    February, 17th 2014 at 11:30 pm

    If the comments are in breach of the law (racist, homophobic etc) then many Trusts have this covered under a “zero tolerance” policy.
    If, as in your example, it’s just unpleasantness that is ignorant or I’ll-informed i usually judge it by what the situation. Sometimes I’ll ignore it sometimes I’ll gently engage and present the opposing view.

    Very important not to project your own opinions when you are representing your employer!

  4. Suzanne
    February, 18th 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve often corrected them when they’ve said something ridiculous. For example, one woman was going on about how immigrants took up precious resources in the NHS, so I explained to her that we rarely got immigrants on the ward and gave a variety of reasons and then told her that every single patient of the 27 currently on our respiratory ward was British and white. I also mentioned that these immigrants madeup a significant portion of those looking after patients in NHS hospitals. I could have mentioned how hypocritical it was of her to say such a thing given her lifestyle choice (smoking) had contributed to her COPD but I sort of know when to stop 😉 She didn’t come out with any ignorant remarks after that!

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