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Monday 18 January 2016

Character Check

Pastor Bankie says that one of the reasons God gives us jobs is to build character. You have to develop discipline, patience, tolerance with fellow workers and customers, humility. You don't know what's in you until you're pushed to the wall.

Well, I didn't know how bad my character was until a patient's relative pointed it out yesterday. 

She said I was rude and disrespectful. I never imagined one could use those terms in describing me. I thought I was just the gentle doctor that minds her own business. I was quite hurt on hearing that, but thankful to God that it was pointed out. And I knew what the root of the problem was. 

Yesterday, a young woman had visited with her husband who had been discharged the previous day. He was to receive his daily parenteral medications. They were sitting on the couch near the door when I saw them. I walked close to them and waited for eye contact before I greeted. The patient was the one that looked my direction. I looked at his wife to turn to me so I could greet her too but she didn't look. So I felt she was not in a good mood and I left. When it was time to administer the drug, I asked the patient into my office. He took some time to come. When he did he said he wanted to ask me a question. He then said, "my wife refused to come in with me. Do you two have any issues?" "No Sir o. Not that I know of". "Well, I know you ladies make an issue out of what shouldn't be an issue. I've told her that before. She said that she's been observing your attitude towards her. Something about you asking her to carry your bag on the first day and when you greeted me you didn't greet her". I was shocked that my thoughtless actions had so much ramification. "Sir, if you noticed, when I came out I stood for a while before greeting you. I was actually waiting for you to make eye contact with me and you did. When she didn't look my direction, I didn't want to throw my greeting into the air."

I've tried to explain to her to bear with you because you're an Igbo girl. You know we Yorubas, we like respect. At least, a show of it even if you don't mean it."

"I'll talk to her"

So when my boss came to see the patient, I stole the opportunity to go talk to the lady. I sat beside her. She gave me one what's-your-own look. I tried to be as calm as I could. "Good afternoon Ma. Please I want to know if you have any issues with me that I'm not aware of."
"Don't worry. It's been sorted out", she said it with some sarcastic tone. I persisted, "Please it will be good I know so that I wouldn't do it next time." Then she rapped out,

"I don't like how you have treated me since we came in here. You have been very rude and disrespectful".

"How Ma?"

"You are a doctor. You are supposed to treat your patients with respect. You said I should carry your bag, then I should put on the A.C. I had even forgotten about all those ones. I didn't have any issues with you today but the worst of it all is that you came and greeted my husband and didn't greet me. Why would you do that?" 

"I am sorry Ma but please hear my own side of the story so you can see this from my own perspective."

"When you both came into my office the first day, I saw you were standing and so I offered you a seat. (I had asked her husband to sit at the patient's seat) My bag was on that seat so I said that you could put the bag on the bed."

"I should carry your bag"

"Ma, what could I have done? It would be awkward to stretch out my hand over the table to remove the bag. Then about the A.C. Remember, it was the day I was checking his BP in the ward. I said I couldn't hear anything that maybe it was because of the noise from the A.C so I asked you to turn off the A.C. After I finished I said you could turn the A.C back on. Should I have left just like that? I wanted to greet you too but since you weren't looking my direction I couldn't."

"Who said I must look at you before you greet. It is how you say things that's the issue. I am a Yoruba lady. I can read different meanings to what you say. "You can remove the bag", she mimicked with some sarcasm "you can put on the A.C."

I am sorry.

No problem.

Thank you.

Lessons Learnt: Never allow someone's reaction towards you influence your courtesy towards them. The difference between the statements 'you can' and 'could you' might be the difference between love and war. 

©Radiant~ January 2016

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Unknown said...

Hahaha. Yes you were rude. Next time, greet and let the greeting go into the open air. The stress will then shift to the greetee. At least you were mature enough to learn from it. That's a plus!

Ekenedilichukwu. said...

I have learnt a lot from this practice and one major thing which is key Is that the art of medicine is equally as important as the science. Truth is that they only teach us the science in school but no one bothers to teach us the art which, from experience is even more vital than the science. Your case isn't peculiar because I have seen many colleagues suffer through same. I won't dwell on any of the sides of the divide. One key advice I give to colleagues on this issue has always helped tremendously when they apply it. That is, always treat every patient as you would treat your mother if she comes to consult with you. By so doing, you will never have issues with any patient. It works like magic for me.

Kingston said...

Hmm...interesting. I like that you learnt from the whole incident. Don't for once think this situation is peculiar to you...we all have have our shortcomings. 

On greeting, I'd say you should have greeted her. It's better to just do it...at least she'll hear than to be reputed as someone who does not greet. I experience same especially with some senior‎ colleagues in the office. I just greet and move on even when I know they'll likely snub. Your kind of job requires more affection though.

Good you apologized to her as well. Sometimes you have to do so even when you are right. The use of "sorry", "please" and "thank you" ‎could have helped in resolving many conflicts, prevented divorces, mended broken relationships and restored estranged friendships. 

However, you cannot please everybody. Do what you know is right and let people be.

More ink to your pen.