Hello Resident, Do You Hear Me Talking?

My client and I have a full case of resident blues.  It occurs when talking to a resident in the hospital is like conversing with a full size cut out in an parallel dimension.  I know I am talking to someone but the answers are not related to the questions I asked.  Why do I get the feeling sometimes when I am talking to a resident that I should be calling “Men In Black?”

I know the life of a resident consists of long hours, constant pressure, traveling along the medical learning curve and I feel for you.  However, one lesson needed to be learned is patients and patients’ families require clear, correct and timely information.  Note to residents everywhere: Patients are not your private research subjects who come and go to participate in your scholarly medical growth nor are they part of your “ER” like mini series.

I am a forgiving person and regularly overlook and correct residents miscommunication when I am with clients.  But alas, my most recent interaction with the resident team was so bizarre and potentially unsafe that I had to vent.  At one point my client, who’s mother was inpatient asked me, what is going on?  What was going was that every resident who entered the room had their own set of facts and fiction.  Information changed with each person.  Residents from specialty A didn’t communicate with residents from specialty B causing constant confusion.

It would have been bearable except this was the second admission  with the same resident team for both specialties.  We knew the residents by name.  Still, when we asked questions, we got the wrong answers.  We had to track down the attending and surgeons to get accurate information.

I think my moment of frustration and then clarity was when I arrived  as the resident was telling the mother she was being discharged that afternoon on oral medications.  Wow, Dr. Smartypants, you can’t discharge her until infectious disease signs off , she needs to  have six weeks IV antibiotics, will need homecare as well as her 24/7 aides in place, if she goes home.  Besides that, you were told to speak with her son or me about these details because he would like a short stay at skilled nursing to be considered.

It was then he started to speak to me in a slower cadence to help me understand.  As if  English was a foreign language to me and I needed simpler terms to explain the facts.  Just as I was about to unravel, the attending appeared with the correct information.  No discharge at this time for all the reasons I listed above and then some.

I wish that was the end of it but between that exchange and the final discharge, more misinformation and false starts occurred.  At one point, the son called me with a new twist and I burst out laughing.  The information was so off base, it was all I could to laugh my frustration away.  It had become a comedy of the absurd.  I wondered, what happens to people who don’t have someone advocating for them?

Here’s the deal residents: if you don’t have the answer, don’t make one up.  Misinformation is worse than no information.  Don’t suggest scenarios when they aren’t possible.  It is OK to say you don’t know.  Patients will appreciate honest answers and communication.