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The NSPA Blog

Catching flies with vinegar

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Posted on September 25th, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Infections, Patient Advocacy

Everyone’s heard the old adage

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But it seems to be one worth repeating again. And again. A client of ours went through a “series of unfortunate events” at the hospital recently. She was admitted for a simple procedure. She should have gone home after a day or two. But no procedure and no surgery is ever completely problem free. She experienced side effects from surgery, anesthesia, and medication that caused great personal alarm. When she called me the morning after surgery I decided to go check on her. After all, that’s what RN Patient Advocates do. What I saw made me immediately realize that something alarming had indeed happened and I started thinking WORST POSSIBLE SCENARIO options.

Her face, neck, and chest were inflated with air. It was so bad that she could hardly open her eyes. My poor client! The doctor had already been in to see her, but I requested that the nurse page him again right away. I needed some answers. Now to be fair, doctors are extremely busy these days. That’s a blog for another day. Still, he made it abundantly clear that he was not pleased to be paged back to a patient he had already seen. Of course, I didn’t mean to bother him. But again, private patient advocates protect their clients. Period. And I was bothering him. Before he even arrived, he told the nurse he had already explained the complications to the family and wanted to know just who I thought I was. I kindly explained that I was not hospital employee and why I had concerns about my client.

When he did arrive, it was clear that he was busy and needed to get on with his day. Fair enough, but not before taking care of my client and my concerns. He wanted to catch flies with vinegar, when honey would have worked just as quickly and more much effectively.

So what’s the honey in this scenario?

Doctors are human too and sometimes things don’t go as well as planned. But the proper response when speaking with ANY concerned party (be it a hospital employee, family, or private RN advocate) is to 1) Listen 2) Show appropriate concern 3) Convey professional respect and 4) Apologize, even if they did nothing wrong. These steps can go a long way for patient-provider satisfaction levels. It’s called candor.
Countless studies show that doctors are sorely lacking in some of these skills. Hospitals stand to gain respect and save money from hospital-related court cases when doctors take genuine time to spend with patients and their support networks. All people really want is acknowledgement that something went wrong and to hear that the problem has the attention of the appropriate parties. I’m glad I was there to support my patient that day. I worry to think about what emotional distress she may have faced without knowing someone was looking out for her. 
Bottom line: never forget, you catch more flies with honey.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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