When Sharing Doesn't Go So Well, My Experience as a Patient
I have been dealing with an unexpected amount of shock, grief and loss the last week. I decided to write about my experience in this week's article as perhaps some of you have experienced a similar situation before with a healthcare provider.
I will not be sharing anything about this person that would give away their identity as my goal is not to bash or put them down. It is my hope that by sharing my experience openly here with you that those of you who need to hear these words will benefit. And if you happen to experience something similar in the future that you may better understand what is going on and not become as wounded as sensitive me.
Although painful and not easy, I believe in taking a closer look at challenging or difficult situations, interactions and people and discovering what we are able to learn and how we can grow. Sometimes we have to move away from these people but often there are valuable lessons we can take away. This way the next time something like this happens, hopefully it will not hurt us so much but we will be able to see clearly what is going on and move on!
Here the story goes...
I began working with a healthcare professional this summer. Someone I heard give a health lecture. Being greatly inspired by her talk and level of knowledge about a health issue I have struggled with for some time, I decided to seek out her help. Although local to me I was told that she no longer does in person visits but only meets by Skype (video teleconference) or phone.
After our initial phone consultation and intake, she thought she could help me. I was relieved and looking forward to feeling better! However, it was not something I signed up for on my own without having several discussions with my husband first.
The reason why is because working with this provider is completely out-of-pocket as far as medical expenses and not covered by insurance. It was also more than any other provider I had ever seen, costing 50% more than any health service I had previously paid for out of pocket. This is not a decision to make lightly!
We all know how expensive living with diabetes is. All of our diabetes supplies, blood glucose testing strips and insulin, etc is not cheap for most of us in any way. As a matter of fact, only recently have my husband and I had enough money to travel after covering all of the expenses to keep me healthy and well.
I see a handful of holistic practitioners which is weighed out carefully from the beginning as far as if I am able to add them to my care team and if so, how many times a month I can fit their care into my budget. Several providers I only see once a month. It is a careful balance of ensuring the best health possible for myself while not going into debt either! As the stress and worry about debt would only exasperate the very health I am trying to achieve.
So after much careful discussion, my husband and I decided we would add this provider into my care, but only for four visits due to the grave expense. Her services were sold in packages of 4, 8 and 12 appointments.
I proceeded to work with her for several months, sharing much personal information about my health and life. I was fond of her. She was caring, knowledgeable and real. I learned some basic key things for improving my health and was provided with a bunch of handouts to learn more. I thought we had connected and I felt comfortable with her.
Our last of the four visits was on Wednesday last week. After the appointment she sent handouts by email addressing some of the topics we discussed. I had a question about one of the handouts she sent so I replied back. In what I thought was a simple 'p.s.' I informally shared a few thoughts (feedback) about the program, specifically the email guidelines. I mentioned to her how I thought this system could improve that might work better for her clients.
After our four sessions concluded, I was given a much cheaper option allowing no email support for future follow-up appointments. Not being given this choice originally, I mentioned that these appointments are expensive for us to have paid for email support I didn't have much use for. And that it would be nice to be given this option upfront.
I also asked that a few emails be permissible after the program ended to ensure the best care and health possible for the patient rather than be cut off from any contact with her the day the program ended. The current system does not seem patient-friendly or focused.
What happened next I never could have imagined. After my husband got back from a twelve hour day away from home and we were starting to catch up, I opened up her email response. I was looking forward to gaining clarification on the area I had a question on about the handout.
She attempted to answer my question but as I read, I could tell she was filled with much anger and defensiveness and ego as well. This was shocking to me! Her email was very stern and not filled with care. It seemed as if she answered on a whim without giving thought to how she was coming across or taking into account the feelings of her patient. It was definitely opposite of what would bring any patient health.
Her email questioned how I could bring up any questions or concerns after the great care she provided. And she said that other patients think she does not charge enough and that she has since increased her rate further! It said a bunch more harsh stuff too. I was really put off.
Aren't business professionals, especially our healthcare providers supposed to accept feedback from their clients and patients? Don't they want to be the best version of themselves and improve their company or business in ways that would most greatly benefit the person buying services? They do not have to change anything if they do not wish, but at least take into account what is shared.
From her response, I guess this is not always the case!
My own Personal Growth Work to Make the Journey Easier...
In the last few years I have done a lot of work in personal growth. Previously, even when hurt or offended by something a healthcare provider said or did, I did not have the confidence to speak up. I might share what happened with my mom or husband, but that was it. I did not have the courage to approach a provider directly. When I was not be able to let go of what was bothering me, my feelings would fester inside causing me emotional pain and strife. And we all know this can lead to higher blood sugars and restless sleep, etc. It sucked and I did not feel empowered as a human being or a patient!
As I healed and worked on empowering myself I learned how to share what I was feeling. It felt (and continues to feel) amazing.
I learned that speaking our voice and not holding things in (our truth) is very healthy for us and healing for our throat chakra where the thyroid gland is located. To keep health in this area it is important to share what is bursting to come out and not hold it in.
Over the last few years I have grown the confidence and skills needed to share my perspective and feelings with healthcare providers, friends and family alike. My health has flourished. Instead of having unspoken feelings be stuck inside causing me pain, I speak up, allowing them to be released! By sharing my truth I am able to move on and move forward.
At least three times in the last year I recall addressing healthcare professionals about something they said that was hurtful to me. At least one of them thanked me for having the courage to bring this to their attention. They want me to be happy and comfortable with them and didn't realize how what they said came across. We had a nice discussion where both of us were free to share openly.
It is through working through these differences that relationships are strengthened. By being open and able to share our experiences and be truly heard by another, intimacy and trust emerge.
But why did that not happen this time with this healthcare provider? How could someone I respect and trust get mad at me for expressing a few thoughts I had?
It didn't make sense to me.
Looking for Answers Through My Wise Healthcare Team
So I took this question to several members of my healthcare team. After all, I needed to know what I could do to learn from this situation so I would not be caught off guard and hurt again in the future.
Keep in mind we cannot know what was going on for her, but these are just some possible theories from some wise people I trust.
I read the email exchange to one of them. What I learned surprised me! Turns out not everyone, including business professionals always want feedback. And that unsolicited feedback, which I gave, may not always be heard in the way we expect. Who knows where they are at emotionally or what they may be dealing with in their own life. Of course as the patient, we usually have no idea what our provider might be going through.
In an ideal world, even if she read my email and felt hurt, confused or angry, she would have waited to respond until she calmed down a bit and gained some perspective. Her voice after all represents her business. By responding in haste and in a defensive manner she has burnt a bridge. Never a wise idea, especially with someone closely connected in the local holistic community that works as a writer/blogger and could promote her work!
I learned that often those who hold high-level positions have the weakest egos and may not have the self esteem present to handle any constructive feedback. They have worked their way to the top but even their job title or position cannot give them the confidence needed to fill the wounded cracks from within.
I also checked in with another healthcare professional in the same line of work as her who shared:
"Overall, for your situation, I'd say you did a great thing but most people's egos are precious and vulnerable and they can't handle it! LOL.
You shouldn't feel bad. You paid for her services and therefore have a right to offer some critique. She would do the same if she had some concerns during a night she spent at a hotel or restaurant, etc. you know?"
So true! I completely agree with this. If we pay for a service we have a right to offer feedback!
(Back to the situation:) After reading her upsetting response to me I responded back letting her know I was sorry and I think she misunderstood me. That as someone living with multiple chronic health conditions it is important (and vital!) that I track where all of my money is being spent.
I let her know I was just giving some constructive feedback but in no way meant to hurt her with what I shared. The service she offered, albeit expensive, was finely delivered and delivered with care. I also still had a question about her handout that I asked. It was an important question that I needed the answer to before I could proceed.
Perhaps the worst thing is what happened next!
I never heard back.
And for this I am deeply hurt and in shock. This is someone I had gotten to know. I cared about her and I thought she cared about me. I respected her. Her actions do not show a provider that cares about her patients. Someone that works in the healing field should place more care on their actions and how they might negatively affect the health they are claiming they can help restore through their practice and care.
After paying as much as I did to just be cut off like this is appalling. I guess we can learn sometimes through sharing what is on our heart who people really are.
As another one of my healthcare providers shared, "In this situation, she is selling herself as more than she is capable of. But she does not exhibit the qualities a healthcare provider needs to have to do that. They are well-meaning but do not know what they are doing. We have these people that may have qualifications but that does not mean that they are qualified to handle people. As a practitioner, one would hope she would on the up & up and be more professional."
This situation caused me to question what I would do in the future if I had some feedback to share with another member of my healthcare team. Would it be okay to share? Would I be treated negatively again and booted out of their practice? Did I do something wrong with sharing in the first place?
I don't think so. Even though feedback can catch us off guard at times and may be hurtful to our sensitive egos, I believe it is fundamental for our growth as human beings. We may not like what we hear and we certainly do not have to accept it if it is not beneficial for us. But it is important when dealing with others, especially our patients who we are trying to help heal, to always be respectful and act with care.
Better methods of delivery for feedback--
Ask first if it is okay to give some feedback. But do you know what? It is a huge red flag to me if someone does not want feedback as this is certainly not a provider I would ever choose to work with. Just like the providers I have spoken with in informational interview calls to determine if they are a good fit that are put off my my questions. Not a good fit.
Possibly I will ask upfront before I begin working with a new provider in how they respond to patient feedback.
In general, it can be helpful to offer feedback in the form of a hamburger. Ever heard this expression? It means to first share something positive, then share your constructive criticism before ending with something else that is positive. I may try this in the future and see if it goes better.
The difference between intelligence and wisdom!
I once heard this and fully believe it to be true. Someone can be intelligent but that is the extent of it if they do not listen to the points of view or ideas of others. But true wisdom is having not only intelligence but also being open to the viewpoints of others---everyone, from age 2-102! We always have something to learn and ways we can grow, new ways of thinking about things, etc.
True wisdom in my mind equates to being open to the wisdom of the universe in whatever way, shape or form it comes to us.
Lesson learned. How we do not want to be!
And finally, one more important lesson I was reminded of through this whole fiasco. We learn through dealing with others how we do not want to be. An especially good reminder to always leave the ego at the door! And to pause and take a few deep breaths before responding in anger or careless, hurtful behavior when we are upset.
Here's to a future of continuing to share openly what is on my mind and heart. And only working with healthcare providers that are open to learning a new thing or two through feedback I may choose to offer.
After all, I may just have a thing or two to teach after living over 26 years with Type 1 diabetes. I have been in many clinics and interacted with more healthcare providers than many people double my age!
If a provider for any reason chooses not to listen to me or even have a conversation about our differences in thought, they can just hit the road! And you better believe I will not be referring them to others looking for good quality healthcare either!
Oh, and one last thing! Although my sole purpose of writing is to help others, in the process of writing this article I now feel healed of the pain and grief I felt. And.... my blood sugars have finally returned to normal. Hallelujah!
What has been your experience sharing feedback with your healthcare providers?
Is it something you feel comfortable with?
Anyone else have a story to share about a time it either did or didn't go so well?
In Peace & Wellness,
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