Mr. Smith, your brain tumor is benign. We should have no trouble removing it and you’ll be 100% fully recovered in a few weeks!
Mrs. Jones, your new baby boy is perfectly healthy and weighs 7 lbs 6 oz!
Mr. and Mrs. Brown, your son was in a car accident and is getting an Xray of his left leg. He may be on crutches for a while but he’s going to be just fine.
We want to help and boy doesn’t it feel good when we can. But sometimes, even with the best of care, positive experiences may be unrealistic.
Mrs. Smith, I’m sorry, the cancer has spread. The colostomy will help to minimize pain for a few months, maybe longer.
Mr. and Mrs. Brown, your son was in a serious car accident and is in emergency surgery right now. I’m going to see what I can find out for you.
As with the distinction between bully and bullying, language is important. Sometimes, projected anger or intractable grief may filter into surveys setting doctors, nurses, and organizations up for feedback that is misplaced. As we continue to develop patient survey tools and best practices for patient experience, doesn’t it make sense to acknowledge that sometimes no matter what we do there will be tragic moments. Bearing witness, silence, a gentle touch are helpful gestures that will minimize suffering and show compassion. This, would lead to optimal patient experience, but not positive.