Excellent healthcare can come in many forms but none better than a pleasant bedside manner of an ultrasound technologist. The connection between the ultrasound tech and the patient is brief. However, a 30 minute or more prolonged examination can be an opportunity for making the patient feel comfortable and well taken care of.
Ms. Murphy presented to the emergency room with acute right upper quadrant abdominal pain. She was 42 at the time. She was a single mom, and she had her children with her; 8-year-old Patty and 6-year-old Kate. The sonographer, Sarah, met her in the ER and introduced herself. She turned to her kids and asked them their names. After the introduction, Sarah took the cart with Ms. Murphy on it and had the kids follow her to the ultrasound department. Sarah situated some chairs next to Ms. Murphy and explained the exam to them in a very easy to understand way, so everyone in the room knew what to expect.
Sarah asked Ms. Murphy how long she had the pain and if she received any pain meds from the ER. Ms. Murphy looked surprised and didn’t feel she should have to answer any of Sarah’s questions, especially since she gave a history to the ER staff.
Sarah reassured Ms. Murphy she would ask the ER staff when she brought her back and not to worry. “Just let me know if you feel any discomfort while I perform the exam. Take some slow breaths, and we will be done shortly,” Sarah said in a calming voice. About 5 minutes into the exam, the 6-year-old Kate needed to use the potty. Sarah put down her transducer and assisted the child into the bathroom where she waited outside.
When the child was done, Sarah came back and proceeded to complete the ultrasound examination.
This scenario could have gone very differently. If Sarah was someone who did not want to cater to the daughter or the patient she could have ignored the little girl and had her wait until the end of the exam. And Ms. Murphy would have had a terrible experience with Sarah. Sarah could have also demanded a history before completing the examination.
Healthcare training is more technical than personal. It is challenging to teach compassion. However, having compassion in all situations with patients is necessary. Many weeks later a card came for Sarah. It was from Ms. Murphy:
Letters like this make working in healthcare highly rewarding. Nothing can replace a kind interaction between one person and another. An ultrasound room is no exception.