I realize that disclosure is not easy, and that there are both personal and institutional barriers to disclosure. But I am quite certain that somewhere out there in the state of Kansas, some healthcare professionals (and maybe even a couple healthcare organizations) have made the decision to do the right thing and practice disclosure. I don’t mean the scripted, guarded, I-will-tell-you-something-but-not-the-real-story-and-now-I-want-you-to-go-away type of “disclosure”, but authentic human-to-human disclosure.
And for those people, I want to share a note of thanks:
I can’t imagine all the thoughts that must have gone through your head when you realized what happened. That must have been a terrible moment. Perhaps you thought about a way to rationalize this, that it didn’t really happen. Maybe you searched for someone else to blame. Or maybe the facts weren’t quite clear, so there was really no way to know what actually happened—and that it would be better to just move on and get back to work, because of course it was a busy hospital and that was just one patient. Maybe you told yourself that your patients are already sick or injured, so this isn’t that big of a deal. Perhaps you feared that if anyone found out, no one would ever trust you again. And the legal issues! Just imagine!
You could have used any of those reasons to justify remaining silent. But you didn’t, and that reveals your character and your compassion for your patients. By putting the needs of your patient and the family above your own, you helped to preserve the trust in that relationship.
I don’t know how the patient or family reacted when you talked with them. I am sure they were not happy. But I sincerely thank you for having that difficult conversation. Sometimes healing requires conversations like that. And sometimes healing takes a long time, so you may not have seen how that conversation helped. But it did.
Our healthcare system needs more professionals like you. Thank you for a job well done. It means more than you will ever know.