Sorry Works!

Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

When Empathizing, Take A Witness…

When I give a Sorry Works! presentation, I always have four slides I call the empathy example:

“Mrs. Jones, the surgery is over, and I know you were looking forward to taking your Mom home in a few days. You have that big birthday with the grandkids next weekend. Well, I’m sorry to tell you she’s in the ICU…the operation didn’t work out as we hoped. I can only imagine how scary this must be for you, and I’m sorry. Please understand, we’ve already launched an investigation to learn what happened and will touch base with you again by 3pm tomorrow afternoon to update you with our progress. Also, understand, your Mom is receiving the best care possible and we are going to keep you posted on her progress and we are always ready to answer any questions. In the meantime, is there anything I can do for you now? Food, transportation, phone calls, lodging? Do you need a minister? Here’s my business card….that phone number is actually my cell phone. Call anytime if you have questions or simply need more help. Again, I’m very sorry this happened, but we’re going to get through this together.”

The empathy above – not apology! – is provided as soon as possible after the adverse event. What you’re not seeing in that quote/statement is a witness. Take a witness…..your partner, a trusted nurse, someone – to help with the documentation of the event. Again, as we’ve always said, disclosure at the minimum is about creating great evidence for a strong defense (if needed). And you have to think that a patient or family who is learning for the first time that they have just become a statistic may not hear everything you are saying. In fact, they may remember little or nothing of what you say! So, have a witness from your side, and you and your witness must make sure the chart is documented accurately after every conversation with the patient or family. Just the facts….no emotion, speculation, derogatory remarks, etc. Simply we talked with the Jones family at 2pm Tuesday afternoon, discussed the following items, note any comments or questions from the patient or family, and promise to touch base again with a specific time/date. Just stick to the facts, please! You may also consider sending a follow up letter to the patient or family. But always have that witness!!

If you want to learn all there is to know about Sorry Works! and disclosure, remember to register today for our Sorry Works! Training Class, open to all healthcare, insurance, and legal professionals. Here is the registration link: .


– Doug

GeneralJames Harper