one aspect of my job that I truly detest is when people call in about deaths in their families. Whether it’s a call about why they missed their appointment or have to cancel their upcoming appointment, or a family member of a patient calling to let us know that they passed. There’s just no part of me that is capable of dealing appropriately with these problems. And it’s not like I honestly don’t care, because that’s not the case, as far as I’m concerned I only have two feelings; happiness and anger, there is no in between. Emotions make me uncomfortable, id rather people just be happy all the time. I like to be happy and I like when everyone else is happy.
Shit, at my own grandfathers funeral I was going around cracking jokes and trying to make people laugh. I’m just not equipped with the correct software in my brain that makes me capable of showing sincere compassion in people’s times of sadness. The only way I know how to deal with it, like most things in life, is with humor. Now, I don’t feel bad about joking around at his funeral, it’s undeniable that he was where I got this spectacular, if not slightly twisted, sense of humor from. And I was his favorite grandchild after all, there’s no reason to dispute that fact, we all know it’s true…. I like to think that he was smiling down at his little Coppertop making everyone happy on a day about remembering him.
It’s all a bit different in the work place setting, however. I know the patients, and usually it’s only the ones who we really enjoyed seeing and that enjoyed seeing us who we get a call from the family letting us know, and it’s sad to hear. Other times when it’s a call from a patient to cancel or reschedule due to a death in the family and someone I never met I feel bad for their loss but in general just want to get off the phone. I am a ginger and the absence of my own personal soul really hinders smooth sailing on the ‘sadness for other people’ front.
I shit you not, this is how a real life conversation happened between myself and a former patients wife…
Me: foot doctor, this is Becky.
Mrs. Dead Patient: yes, this is Mrs. Dead Patient. I’m just calling to let you all know that Mr. Dead Patient passed away.
At this point I mentally curse the cold hands of death and this awkward situation they have now thrust upon me…
Me: oh, that’s sad to hear…
Mrs Dead Patient: yes. I just wanted to let you all know. He thought so highly of you all, he really enjoyed coming to see the doctor for his visits.
Me: oh, he was always a good patient, always so nice.
Mrs Dead Patient: Yes. He was in the hospital for *reasons that I can’t remember but it was an out of nowhere kind of deal* and his body just couldn’t handle it any longer.
Me: oh. That’s sad to hear…
Mrs Dead Patient: yeaaaah.
Mrs Dead Patient: …..
Me: well. I’ll let Dr Boss Lady and Moni-caw-caw-caw-caw know.
Mrs Dead Patient: oh, thank you. I know they’ll be sad to hear it.
Mrs Dead Patient: ….
Me: ok. Well. You have a great rest of your day…
…I said to the lady whose husband just died!!!!
I hang up the phone and feel a little ashamed of myself….
Me: oh my god, that was the worst….
Moni-caw-caw-caw-caw: yeah. That wasn’t good….
Dr Boss Lady: ok. From now on you transfer those calls to Moni-caw-caw-caw-caw….
Me: I can do that…
Dr Boss Lady: did you get the date he died for his chart?
And then I had to call the lady who I just told to have a great day after she told me her husband died back and ask her when it happened!
Today a patients granddaughter called to let us know that her grandmother had passed this morning and wanted us to know and that she tried calling the doctor on her cell but she didn’t pick up. I’ve gotten better at this since that first awkward death situation but really, I could still use some work… I actually put it as one of my goals for the next year on my employee self eval. How I plan to get better at this, you may ask? I just put down ‘try harder’. We’ll see how it goes…