I was scrolling Facebook and came across an article about an ambulance service in Maine leaving a widow on the side of the road while they were transporting her husband, who was in cardiac arrest. You can find the article here.
From what I can gather from the article, the family was from Nova Scotia and were skiing in Maine when her husband smashed into a tree. The ski patrol rapidly moved the husband (the patient) off the mountain and to a clinic, where the facility called for an ambulance while they attempted to stabilize him. According to the article, the ski clinic did not perform any assessment, and according to the patient’s wife, neither did the paramedics. She insisted that they listen to his chest, start an IV, and take his blood pressure while they were packing him for transport and splinting his elbow. She says that they spent 30 minutes performing these actions.
Beyond poor care, the widow’s other complaint is that she was told to sit up front. Which if there is a lot of activity in the back, I could understand because I don’t want potentially hysterical or intrusive family members in the back while I’m working something critical. To add insult to injury, she was let out of the ambulance and subsequently left on the side of the road. I don’t know the reasoning behind this, maybe she got hysterical or argumentative, I don’t know but there better be a good reason for that.
Clinical assumptions aside (and I did raise my eyebrow a few times), I bet the crew was less than considerate to the family, and perhaps in response to her insistence of being in the middle of things which could have perceived as being in their way. But had the situation been handled with a little more tact, I bet this would barely have generated a complaint at all.
You as a provider have a fiduciary responsibility, that is, having the characteristics of trust. If you display behavior that is not consistent of being worthy of trust, then the patients will not trust you to deliver the best care and certainly not for their family. This is important in all cases, but even more so in cases that involve poor outcomes, because poor outcomes could equal lawsuits even if you delivered stellar care, simply on the assumption that because you acted poorly that you performed equally as poor.
Remember that family members, unless they are physically in your way, often are merely trying to help. If you explain that their help is appreciated but not needed, they would be more than happy to step aside and let you do your job. You should up the level of insistence as they up their belligerence. My lieutenant has pulled many family members aside while we were working and explained that we have a job to do, and handled them with tact even when the outcome was poor. We often hear back about how well we did even though the job was botched or simply didn’t end well.
It’s as much about protecting yourself as it is your reputation. Appear to be trustworthy, and people will trust you despite how bad of a job you did, and will forgive you for your mistakes.