The Hardest Thing

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.


  1. I had a similar problem with you that I begged you to research my symptoms you had no time for any such thing and after reluctantly leaving your practice because if this I had found out that I had a very certain systemic disease that had been in progress for some time. However, if you had just taken the time, and ordered some labs, you would of realized how badly I truly felt, and suffered unessesarily, waiting for you patiently to take that extra moment or two to help an innocent patient who trusted your knowledge fully putting my life in your hands and desperate to find the answer to my constant tormenting, ailments, that in fact, caused me to no be able to be the mother I normally would be for MY CHILDREN!! As you can see, how your mistakes cause an enormous trickle down effect when you make a huge mistake of not taking your patients seriously, and putting off your attention to them while you chase the clock all day long.

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