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Patients and families at their most vulnerable

January 2012

Published in the January 2012 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

We’re ringing in the new year with two stories that look at the darker side of hospital medicine: patient interactions that go bad.

As hospitalists, you’re used to seeing all types of people when they’re at their most vulnerable. That goes not only for patients, but for family members and friends.

How do you handle these patients? Experts urge physicians to avoid labeling them as difficult, and those experts have a point. Many disgruntled patients “particularly those in the hospital “are exasperated at having to navigate an often byzantine health care system. In other settings, they may be perfectly reasonable.

Our cover story, however, looks at what happens when things get so bad that patients want to fire their physician. And while the article gives tips to head off being fired by patients and even says that being fired can serve as a valuable learning experience for hospitalists, it offers an important message: If you are fired, it’s not necessarily your fault.

Some patients and family members, after all, truly are challenging, and no amount of empathy will get through to them. That leads to our story on challenging conversations, which talks about how to work with family members who refuse to accept your diagnosis or prognosis when the patients themselves are incapacitated. Family members can be difficult when they don’t want to accept the reality of a loved one’s medical condition.

The good news in both stories is that there are resources hospitalists can tap into, and many of those resources can be found inside the walls of the hospital. Hospitalists don’t have to feel like they need to deal with these challenging patients or situations alone.

On that note, I’d like to wish all of you a happy and successful new year.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor & Publisher