Sorry Works!

Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Story About Physician Helping Parent with Grief

I recently came across a story in the "Kevin MD" blog about a physician helping a grieving parent. The parent, a mom, was pregnant and already had three children running around.  However, she had lost twins.  The mom's pediatrician had recently retired, and she was meeting her kids' new doctor for the first time. Like any first time visit, the mom had to fill out forms, which included a question about any recent deaths in the family. Mom was truthful.  The reaction from the physician is truly a teachable moment for physicians and nurses, young and old.  'I am so sorry, you never get over a death like that' were what the mom heard from the doctor, followed by more compassion and empathy. Instantly, this grieving mom would trust her living children to this doctor.  Here is the story.

The reason this tale resonated with me was a different story I had relayed to me by a grieving father several years ago. His college-age daughter was in a serious car accident, and when the ER physician came to tell the family the young woman had passed, there was no empathy.  According to the dad, it was simply a robotic regurgitation of medical facts, your daughter is dead, a pager goes off, and the doctor took off, leaving the family to deal with the worst moment of their lives...alone.  No "sorry," no offer for pastoral counseling, no thought to have someone else cover the page, no...nothing.  The dad explained to me that the way the news was delivered and lack of support had emotionally scarred him and his family.   

Doctors and nurses are surrounded by sickness and death every day.  Sometimes, their medical training can prolong life, other times not.  However, when the science proves useless, it shouldn't mean the care stops.  No, the care should be of a different manner: empathy.   And, look, training our doctors and nurses to be empathetic with grieving families is actually a good way to practice so staff are ready to empathize when a patient/family is grieving due to a medical error.

Fall is right around the corner...consider scheduling a Sorry Works! presentation for your Grand Rounds.  Call 618-559-8168 or e-mail


Doug Wojcieszak