The two stories “What the Doctors said” and “ A Small Good Thing” emphasize two different approaches towards communication between the patient/family and the health care provider. The issue lies in the ways in which the health care provider delivers negative news to the patient/family. Being the messenger of bad news is a difficult task to accomplish, and many things can go wrong. However, one important point really counts in the end—that the truth has to be told.
In speaking with patients and their families, health care providers need to recognize the compassionate ways in which true facts can be relayed to the people in their care. The first writing is a poem where the author had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The doctor is honest and open while delivering a message related to diagnosis and treatment. The patient is able to accept the news and feels relief that the doctor told him the truth. The patient shows respect to the doctor for being honest and is grateful for this honesty.
This poem illustrates the point that patients are truly appreciative of health care providers who can be openly truthful with them. If a patient and one’s family are subjected to health care providers who are uncaring or dishonest, then the entire communication system can collapse, leading to perhaps even worsened health for everyone involved. The second story, “ A Small Good Thing”, is about a family, Howard and Ann, who have son named Scotty. Scotty’s birthday is coming up, and Anna is planning a party for him.
Their happiness is disrupted when on the day of birthday Scottie is hit by a car on his way to school and Scotty is taken to the hospital in comatose state. Howard and Ann are being told that their child is simply sleeping and that he will wake up shortly, and the attending physician refuses to call Scotty’s condition a coma. For a few days, nurses, ancillary staff, and even lab technicians never explain reasons for their actions while performing their tasks on Scotty. Furthermore, the parents are exhausted and uncertain of their child’s well being.
The doctor is not honest with them, gives them false assurance, and does not share his predictions. At the end, a neurologist comes over to see Scotty and the plan of care abruptly changes from waiting it out to immediate surgery. Unfortunately, Scotty never made it to the operating room he ended up dying before that. Howard and Ann witnessed their child to take his last breath without knowing the true conditions and needs of their son. By the quiet uncertainty of the health care personnel, the family is left feeling unsure and frustrated, truth in open conversation never having been extended to them.
Howard and Ann left the hospital with many unanswered questions and feeling frustrated with doctor’s attitude towards their son conditions. They wondered what went wrong. When they got home they realized that an upset baker was calling them with an order that was never picked up. Ann was very upset and along with her husband they visited rude baker. Through an open communication process, the baker changed to nicer man, offered them cinnamon rolls and listed to what happened. The baker becomes a symbol for what they needed earlier at the hospital: open, honest, and caring dialogue.
This is what every patient and family needs. It is that it is better to openly communicate with the patient and family rather than leaving them uncertain and frustrated. The healthcare provider should communicate openly about difficult issues in order to build better relationships and to prepare patients and their families for reality. As in the initial poem, it is easy to understand why an open, friendly, and honest health care provider can invoke trust and understanding in the patient/family.