This morning, I was helping (or not helping, as the case may be) with the set-up of a new website. Two provinces away on the phone was the doctor I was “assisting” to navigate a new WordPress install.[Note: She ended up calling tech support, so I can’t say I was all that helpful ;).]
During this call, though, she said “Thank you for being so patient!”
While this was in reference to the understandable frustrations of technology and distance (1400 kilometres is a bit of a distance to lend support on a host I’d never used!), perhaps it should be used in different patient-doctor scenarios.
How many times has your doctor (as a patient)/have you (as a physician) entered the room a) late, b) visibly stressed, c) without having consulted your notes first, or d) all of the above?
In any of these situations, I’d much rather hear “Thank you for being so patient,” over “Sorry”. Being thanked values my time, energy and investment into being a patient. Apologies mean little when they’re overused: apologize when you, as a healthcare provider, have screwed up; when something has happened and you could have done better, acknowledge it! Help reinstate the value of being truly sorry—we can tell when you’re being sincere, anyways. Chronic patients realize that these things—being late, stressed, needing a second to check our charts—are facts of life in the healthcare system. It’s why I am reasonably patient (and pleasant) as much as I can be when dealing with my medical team, and make the effort to thank every single person I encounter in the hospital or clinic whenever possible: I appreciate the work you do, that these professions do not have nearly enough resources, and that everyone taking care of me has far more than me to think about. I want the people caring for me to know that.
And just as I, as a patient, appreciate the work that healthcare professionals do, I’d much rather the apologies be saved for when they’re truly needed, and instead, my experience be recognized and appreciated.
“Thank you for being so patient,” works for me.