Today was a first.  I had a patient lose it on me…

My patient had been consistently coming in 10 minutes late.  Every time she would come in late I would discuss with her how it then limited the time I could spend with her because I had patients after her.  She would acknowledge what I said and then she would continue to show up 10 minutes late.  It was especially frustrating because she’s a Medicare patient and you can only charge for time spent 1 on 1 with the PT.  If I had a patient coming in 20 minutes after her, and she was showing up 10 minutes late, that left 20 minutes for me to work with her…and then start the next patient late by 5 minutes (so now I’m late) so I can at least bill 2 units of therapy with my late patient. Of course, I’m not going to explain that to her.

It eventually got to the point where we would joke about how she’s late to everything.  Other patients would pipe in on the conversation and we would all have a big laugh.  While it was frustrating to have her show up late, at least we were getting a laugh.  And my patient started showing up earlier and earlier…to the point that she showed up 1.5 minutes early the other day.

And then she reverted back to her old ways today.  So when she walked through the door I did my usual, “____, you’re 10 minutes late again!  That means I get 10 minutes less with you!”  She seemed fine, but a minute later when I was bringing her back she snapped at me, saying “you know, you really don’t need to shout that out so everyone can hear….”  She continued to rant.

Meanwhile, in my brain, panic ensued.  You see, I’m frequently getting told by my co-worker how I’m too nice.  I tend to make exceptions for people or try to inform them how they are usually late…by sorta joking about it versus getting straight to the point and telling them how my time is valuable and they are wasting it.  I try pretty damn hard to make sure my patient’s are happy, even if it sacrifices my time.

So now I have a patient yelling at me.  I didn’t respond much other than to say to get up on the table.  In a way, I could understand her point and so I felt a little sorry for that.  At the same time though, what was said was not too far out of the ordinary from our usual interactions.  So I calmly apologized and explained how it was my understanding that we usually interact in that way and that it is normally well-received.  She agreed but said I sounded more serious today.  She then went on another rant about something her husband expected her to get done that she didn’t and how she’s not prepared for their vacation this Friday.  And that’s when I realized it probably wasn’t exactly about me.  While I might have pushed her over the edge, it seemed as though she had been standing on it for quite some time prior to the PT session today.

“Well, _____, it seems like you have a lot going on and that you’re having a day…and that’s okay.  We’re all allowed to have those kinda days every now and then.”

I let it go.  I can’t let one negative experience bring me down.  If I had done that, I would have completely ignored the two very positive things that happened with the patients immediately after that one.  My patient with a knee injury from years ago actually finished a run with no pain or instability after….something he hasn’t been able to do since before his injury! And I had another patient, who normally sees my co-worker, specifically  state that she would like to continue to work with me because she thinks I’m better (not that I’m in a competition with my co-workers but it boosted my confidence).

I’ve learned some things today.  I see where I have room to grow.  One day at a time!