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Reality Unscripted
Righteous Anger?

Yesterday the doctor I work for was fuming. He was ticked that I messed up his schedule by adding a patient. After he snipped at me, he stormed off to see the patient, who had a bad leg infection.

The patient evaluation softened the doctor's mood. The guy obviously needed to be seen--and we finished the day right on time.

Apologetic and sheepish, the doc seemed to recognize his overreaction.

How often do we (I'm assuming one or two of you might do this too) jump to conclusions about a situation and react rashly? We let our emotions rule the moment--and we go too far. Would it really kill us to take a deep breath and stop to think? Probably not. Would the situation worsen if we didn't yell and scream impulsively? Unlikely.

There are plenty of things to get angry about in any given day. Many of them may be valid. The question is whether our reactions are valid.

Had my doctor said, "I'm feeling frustrated about my schedule today because I got only four hours of sleep last night and have two more meetings right after work," I could have validated his feelings and explained why I thought the gentleman needed to be seen. We all would have been fine.

Instead he let his frustration--not his mind--take the driver's seat.

To say it another way, "Don't sin in your anger." That's how the Bible puts it. It acknowledges that people get angry, but warns not to go off the deep end. Think before you speak. Take a look at the other possible angles. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Assume the best of the other person instead of the worst. All those cliches are true.

You may save yourself a nasty clean-up if you stop and breathe before you act--or react, as the case may be.

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3 Responses to “Righteous Anger?”

  1. capflash Says:

    I was in a situation where I was sent by my RN Float Pool to work on an unfamiliar unit and the assignment was heavy that shift. I was assigned to an Aide who made it clear from the beginning that she wasn’t going to be directed by me or anybody in her care of our co-assigned clients.

    When one elderly client who was bedridden, demented and non-verbal had liquid diarrhea, I realized it was covering a coccygeal dressing I had not been informed of in report or from the Kardex.
    I would normally do such a dirty job myself, but with my task pile biting into my dinner hour already and a new dressing added to the list, I asked the Aide for help. She looked at me woodenly and finally another Aide agreed to do it with her.

    When I went to do the dressing, the gentleman had been changed but there was liquid brown coating his scrotum. I still had to do pericare before the dressing. When I finished both tasks, I quietly asked the Aide to come to the back room to discuss the issue. She refused and demanded I tell her in front of the rest of the staff. I told her I preferred to do it in private, but she insisted.

    I told her of the problem and she insisted the man had soiled himself a second time. I told her it was not so as his linen was spotless, as was his entire anal region making it obvious she had seen to the client, but had missed the scrotum. I stated I just wanted to ensure she’d be more thorough next time. She then announced that I (a caucasian nurse) was only saying that because she was black. I assured her that I had worked with many fine black nurses and doctors who I look up to and learn much from, but that had nothing to do with the issue at hand. She insisted I was prejudiced. I finally told her I could care less if she was black, white or purple, that it was “a red herring”.

    I proceded to list for her how leaving the man in such condition affected the man’s comfort, risk for infection, risk for skin excoriation, risk for depression being left that way, risk for being shunned socially for the odour, risking the hospital being labelled as substandard by family, etc. I then told her I’d had my say and asked her for her input. She simply responded “what is a red herring?” I told her it means it didn’t belong in the conversation. I assured her I had noted that she had taken care of other tasks for the clients and I didn’t have a problem with those, just the diarrhea issue. That ended that conversation. I was not angry to that point.

    Not a minute later two nurses from that unit came up to thank me for “putting the Aide in her place”. I was stunned and asked, “You mean this isn’t an isolated case and you’ve been putting up with sub-standard care from this individual? Then you assigned her to a unsuspecting float nurse??”

    That was when I became angry. I told the nurses that it was a shameful way to treat float nurses who were not as familiar with routines and location of items, making float nurses jobs harder than their’s. I told them that if they neglected to deal with problem employees then they would become hard pressed to have float nurses agree to work their unit, again.

    I know I wasn’t popular that night but I felt self-righteous and believe I handled my anger constructively. Although I missed my supper, I like to think my clients received the care they deserved.

  2. Ian Furst Says:

    Been there, snipped at that, got the t-shirt. Still ashamed at my behaviour. I now go on the assumption that the front desk has the most altrustic movitivation because because there trying to balance the needs of the patient and the clinic with getting grief from either side.

    From an admin point of view we’ve instituted a rule that the clinic sets global rules for booking (blocks of time, when to book, which patient types go in certain time slots). If the docs want to change who goes where it has to go thru the office manager first so that the front desk has one point of contact. That way they’ve got some less-fluid guidelines and are free to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Does the same thing happen? Of course. but much less than it used to.

  3. Mr Ian Says:

    We have a preferred ethos that we never react to anything; we only ever respond to it.

    There is a difference and it helps to teach others to keep their mouth shut (and not react) until they know what they are responding to.

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