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Monday, November 2, 2015

That parent: you know the one who makes the front desk staff have nonepileptic seizures?!?

For those that don’t know - nonepileptic seizures also known as pseudo-seizures are a phenomenon when a person does not have a real seizure, but they just mimic the movements of a seizure. Sometimes it is for secondary gain such as getting out of school and getting attention or sometimes it is a manifestation of underlying psychiatric illness.

Well, this is a post about patients that really stress providers and staff out and cause us all kind of angst.

I will take a moment to perform some serious self-reflection: I love me some difficult patients (yes, “love me some” as my Granny would say), blame it on my mother being a Social Worker, me being an interdisciplinary major who took a ton of medical anthropology and ethics classes, and me being extremely committed to social justice. Add to that the fact that most of the difficult patients come from places where my cousins still live and culturally I just feel connected to the loud, passionate, trash-talking patients. And finally, blame it on the fact that I have read countless accounts of the biases we providers have for folks we relate to and have against those who aren’t like us. I continually find myself being the only person bringing these biases up. I get it, I'm usually the only person of color in the room and to me these are issues I deal with every day and most of the time these biases harm folks that look like me and come from where I come from (see references below).

In spite of the very real and significant way we providers treat patients differently based on how we perceive them (see references below), what to do when a parent crosses the line? When their own mental health disorder gets in the way of their interactions with care providers? What happens when a parent only knows how to speak in a way that is viewed as overly aggressive to my colleagues and other staff but is culturally tolerable to me (loud, hands waving, maybe with a few expletives)? What happens when essentially an entire staff is overwhelmed with these interactions. There has been at least one time when I felt like the only one still advocating for a family but even I began questioning if I was really helping at all? What happens when we collectively have nonepileptic seizures when a parent comes in the door because we know the ish is about to hit the fan? I'm just wondering. What to do about "that parent"? The one we all want to avoid but who we still want to find a way to work with?

References:
1. Association of Race and Ethnicity With Management of Abdominal Pain in the Emergency Department. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/4/e851.full
2. Problems and barriers of pain management in the emergency department: Are we ever going to get better? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004630/
3. Unequal treatment. https://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2002/Unequal-Treatment-Confronting-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparities-in-Health-Care.aspx

2 comments:

  1. No solutions here. My usual situation is that the patient has been really rude to my staff, but then they are perfectly polite when I walk in the room. I don't usually call them out on their behavior because I'm probably (overly) concerned with my rapport with them--you know, "customer satisfaction" and all, but it's really annoying.

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  2. I've definitely been called in, as a chaplain, to try to interface with "difficult" families, in hospital settings, to try and give them some aspect of the hospital experience where they have more control, won't offend (or it won't matter so much if they do), etc.

    Maybe some cultural competency training would help your colleagues? I know it helped my pastoral care.

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