Why is this patient yelling at me and the staff?

This is a routine cataract surgery that goes well and without complications. What is unusual about this case is the patient’s attitude prior to surgery. When I went to greet the patient prior to surgery, he was agitated and flippant with the nursing staff. He yelled at the nurse who was starting his intra-venous line and accused her of incompetence, even though she is an expert who does 1000+ IV lines per year.

Next, the focus of the patient’s insolence was the anesthesiologist who was questioned about his knowledge and competence. Finally, it came to me where the patient was rude, disrespectful, and frankly insulting. I did not let it affect me. I simply ignored the snarky comments and focused on the task at hand: doing the best cataract surgery possible.

The patient did great in the post-op period and then apologized to me and the entire staff. His wife of more than 50 years died the week prior to his cataract surgery and he just did not know how to process his grief. Now it all made sense. He didn’t mean to lash out at the surgery center staff. This taught me an important lesson:

Be tolerant, even if patients seem upset with you. Life is complicated and you never know what other stresses and challenges the patient is facing.

click below to watch the surgery but more importantly to hear my commentary:

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