This morning I was tending to a woman who had smashed her finger in a door. She was grumpy to begin with because I was running 30 minutes late. She was not pleased with my recommendation to go to the ER for xrays and stitches. She works the night shift and had not yet been to sleep. All around, not a happy camper.
We discussed her job and the fact that she will likely not be able to work for at least a few days. I asked her if she has sick leave. “Well, I don’t know,” she said. “My boss is a Jew and they don’t like anyone to take time off.” Um…hello, I’m a Jew?
What followed was a long silence while I struggled to come up with an appropriate response. I couldn’t find one. The long silence was all that I could muster. I hate when that happens! It’s not that I find the patient’s remarks ok, or even worthy of ignoring. It’s that my first reaction (did she really just say that?) is never conducive to a therapeutic response. My second and third reactions (oh my god, think of something to say! THINK OF SOMETHING TO SAY RIGHT NOW!) aren’t very helpful either. The fourth reaction (say ‘I’m Jewish.’ Wait, do you really want to engage on a personal level right now? Is that professional? Is that a good idea?) also didn’t make the grade. My only response was a disapproving silence. It was not the articulate yet professional condemnation of bigotry that I was hoping for. Sigh. I’ll be adding ‘develop better response to prejudiced patients’ to my list of “Things to Work On.”