Once upon an afternoon shift, in our Emergency Department, we received a critically injured man who had been in a car accident.
As our team worked hard to stabilise him in the resus room, the doctor in charge compassionately thought to call the patients next of kin.
I’m not sure if all hospital dect phones are very loud, but we could hear the entire conversation even from the other side of them room.
“Hello Mrs (de-identified). I am calling…” (interrupted).
“I HATE telemarketers calling during dinner time! We are about to have dinner!”.
The senior doctor who was calling had an accent that was not Australian. This person had made an assumption that he was calling to sell her something. He looked visibly shocked but tried to continue:
“No, Mrs… (interrupted again).
“I am not interested. Don’t call back.” Click.
The senior doctor checked on the patients progress and then re-dialled the number.
“Hello Mrs (de-identified). You must…” (interrupted)
“I told you not to call me! I am not interested! I am on the ‘do not call register!” Click.
At this point I approached him and offered to make the call to free up his time. He professionally declined and said he needed to call one more time. He redialled her number.
“YOUR HUSBAND IS IN THE HOSPITAL! I am a doctor calling from (de-identified) Emergency Department. I want to tell you that he has been in a car accident and has severe injuries. We are transferring him to another hospital for specialist care”.
There was a long silence on the phone line.
“What?! I’m so sorry. What?! Is he okay? What is happening?!”
And instantly the senior doctor’s responding voice was kind, warm and compassionate. Despite being subjected to shouting and discrimination, his personal values dictated that he would respond with kindness to all people he interacted with. He reassured the family member and finished the phone call in a warm and professional way. He then turned to the rest of us and laughed about being mistaken for a telemarketer. However, it must have hurt.
In Australia we have many health care professionals who come from all over the world, and we are lucky to have their experience and their skills available to us. This is just one of many examples which I have witnessed in hospital work that demonstrate as a population we still have room for improvement in the area of diversity and inclusion.
Have you ever experienced assumptions in your workplace? What happened?
About the Author
Tracy Churchill is a Nurse Manager and LinkedIn Top Voice 2020. She shares her insight and expertise as a nursing leader during a time of tremendous upheaval for frontline health care workers. Her articles cover topics such as the loneliness facing COVID-19 patients as they isolate from their loved ones; the small acts of kindness that nurses provide to their patients; and how hospitals are managing nurse burnout, such as with four-day workweeks. She also writes about leadership and management from a nursing perspective.
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