I just had to do the hardest thing. I didn’t just tell a patient they had only months to live. I didn’t just console the family of a lost loved one. I didn’t just perform CPR at an accident to save a life.
Today, I apologized.
We, my office, and by default: I made a mistake. A big one. A patient’s life could have suffered seriously. Thank God, he is fine.
I learned of this patients hospitalization a few hours ago. Very quickly it was obvious we had missed something that shouldn’t have been missed.
NOT apologizing to him was never an option. So, with a pit in my stomach, I picked up my cell and dialed his number. With every bit of courage I could muster I made myself utter those hardest of words: “I am sorry.”
While my patient was very calm, he was not kind. He systematically and rationally reiterated his story to me…painfully underlying every misstep. I listened and silently nodded into my phone. I felt the tears welling up and pushed them aside. As it turns out, I said very little in my apology but I heard a lot.
In the end, I have lost this patient for good. He will not return to my practice. I am sad for that. But, I am sadder yet that we let a patient down. In our crazy hectic schedule we didn’t take an extra minute.
That, cannot and will not happen again. Within minutes of that conversation, my office manager was rearranging schedules to allow more time for sick patients.
If losing this patient, swallowing my pride, and making positive changes helps one patient get better care, then all was worth it.
I don’t feel good or superior or mentally strong having done that. Instead I feel disappointed but resolved to do better next time. I certainly never want to have THAT conversation again.