Many thanks to all who responded to my conundrum about conveying bad news on a Friday. Lots of different answers confirmed my initial impression: there really wasn’t any “right” answer. I just did my best based on what I know about my patients. Just thought I’d let y’all know how it played out.
I picked up the phone the moment I got into the office (pretty FSM-damned early) and caught the patient before leaving for work. Conveyed the fact that I had news and that it wasn’t good. Arranged for patient (and spouse) to come for an appointment within the hour.
They reacted about as expected. It actually hit the spouse significantly harder than the patient. Tissues were proffered and accepted. They had spent the weekend reading up on some of the various diagnoses we’d discussed earlier, though not the one that it turned out to be.
But it was a good weekend for them. Mission accomplished.
Phone numbers were provided to the required specialists. More hugs offered and again accepted. After they left, I picked up the phone again and spoke with the surgeon myself, giving him the specifics and to expect the call. He reassured me that the patient would be taken care of promptly. In my experience with this practice, it usually means surgery will ensue within the week.
It’s now more than a week later, and I haven’t heard anything from either patient or specialist. Chances are that surgery has already occurred, a definitive diagnosis has been obtained, and further treatment is being planned.
But I know nothing. Out of the loop. Radio silence.
I’m confident that my patient is being well cared-for. But what about me? I’m still worried.
I know how whiny that sounds. I know I’m not the one facing major surgery and potential further treatment for a life-threatening illness. But still; I care. I don’t want to bother the busy surgeon by calling and bugging him. I’ll probably get a letter from him eventually. And I certainly don’t want to bother my patient or the spouse. It’s not their responsibility to keep me informed.
But still; not knowing is difficult. Karma for having waited until Monday? Perhaps.