I got into an argument with another provider. I really disagreed with his care. I saw his patient, and she didn't know that her diabetes was ragingly out of control, that her kidneys were actively failing, that the fatigue and dyspnea she'd been having for the last few weeks were heart failure. It was all news to her.
If you've working in any service industry, you know that what goes on in front of clients is very, very different from what happens behind closed doors. That shouting match you had with your co-worker is described as a 'friendly debate.' The flagrant incompetence of your staff is described as, 'Oh, she's still getting things figured out.' When we're standing in front of the people we're serving, we are trying to convey a sense of competence, so that they can have confidence in the care they're receiving. And sometimes, it's tempting to use this colorful language with diagnosis and management. We simplify and generalize and minimize and suddenly, terminal cancer becomes 'a concerning finding' and overwhelming sepsis becomes 'a serious infection.' In an effort to portray confidence, we create a false narrative of the events unfolding.
So when I saw this patient and told her the rather unpleasant truth, that she had multiple major medical conditions all doing terribly, she was stunned. And when I talked to the other doctor, I did not have any nice things to say, because looking competent and being competent are not the same things. And if you're going to put on a game face, then you'd better have the game performance to back it up.