Patient Care, Perspectives

Frazzled


The tension in the work room was mounting. The research coordinator sat next to physician’s assistant who was waiting eagerly by the phone. She was waiting for a phone call from the radiologist. I knew who this was for as I had walked by the room multiple times and seen the patient pacing up and down in the room very anxious to know the results of her MRI scan. It’s not an easy sight. The pacing and that anxious look. The door was open as I passed by, her face staring at me longing for assurance. I gave none, because I did not know the result yet. I offered a simple smile, but this does not have the wanted effect. She continued pacing.

I feel a need well up inside me to remove this patient’s anxiety. Patience, my mind says, we have been down this road before. I’m ready for both battles, but not eager to engage in the battle of bad news. I continued what I do best, seeing other patients. I do not like not knowing too, I thought. I was beginning to get anxious myself, it’s taking too long for the radiologist to get back to us with the results – a sign perhaps that this was not going to be good news after all. I regretfully conjured up the thought of giving bad news. I carried that with me in my heart from room to room as my team patiently waited by the phone. She was not alone in this. But I am sure she felt that she was. We were all worried. That is a feeling we rarely share back with our patients. It’s the feeling that we need to know, for better or for worse.

It’s hard not to get involved emotionally sometimes waiting in anxiety for a test result that might determine the next treatment or seal the fate of a person. The phone finally rang. It’s annoying sound shattered the pensive feeling that surrounded it. It was like waiting for your final grade after an exam you had studied so hard for. I stood and watched, allowing the reality of the truth to become manifest. Her voice was solemn “yes” she said listening intently and jotting down what was being said. I could not hear the radiologist on the other line but I could hear the tone of the voice of the person receiving the news, it was reassuring. Her voice heightened with every response listening intently as the radiologist told her his thoughts about the scan. Each response she gave was happier than the previous. The coordinator and I were smiling. This sounded like good news, the tension in the air very quickly melting away.

We all walked into the room. Frazzled, my patient’s tears were quick to show, and we all shared the news that things looked better than they had seemed. In the rush of it, I hugged her and she started to cry. It was a powerful moment captured in the cathartic delivery of the truth after a very long wait. It was worth it in the end. The coordinator joked “now you have to fill out the questionnaire”, revitalized, the patient just said, “happy to”.

I have been through these times with many people, with them on this anxious journey. I tell you I do not like it one bit, the wait, the pacing, the lack of knowledge and the race of emotions as the truth unfolds. Experience has taught me to be patient as sometimes the unexpected does happen and the wait was merely a mask behind the victory that needed to be told.

Mo

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4 thoughts on “Frazzled

  1. Claire Barnhouse says:

    Mo Iam a little behind in my response with me being your favorite fan..lol
    Boy you have it right on the nose when it comes to your patients waiting for results and how they are feeling.. but it is so nice to hear from my amazing doctor of science on his side of the journey with his patients. I do not know what I would do without your care and your teams care. You are one of a kind Mo.. I am greatful….
    Claire Barnhouse
    Your #1 fan…

  2. From the patient’s standpoint, I’ve always wondered what was going through my oncologist’s mind. He’s always been so gracious and kind but with my initial diagnosis he said, “Honestly, this treatment plan we’re giving you is one of the worst things I can do to my patients.” I wondered how hard that was. Or the visits when chemo was so super heavy and I wasn’t sure I could lift my head when he walked in the exam room… Thanks for your insight!

  3. Jon B. Oakleaf says:

    It’s a shame not to acknowledge such well crafted and helpful words! You communicate very well and I’m sure that is of great importance to her and all your patients. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Loni Duncan says:

    I find your thoughts so interesting and although I’ve been a nurse since the early 80’s and worked with lots of physicians, it’s nice to get the perspective on the emotions they don’t show the rest of us. Bless you for all your good work.

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