Almost a year ago, this same man comes to the clinic wanting his pain medication and some results of blood work. When I meet him in the waiting room, his arms are crossed and he's very agitated. I tell him I can discuss his blood work but he needs to come back in a few days for his medication as he's too early for his scheduled prescription time. He gets very angry and I even hear him say under his breath, referring to me, "Bitch." I step back but don't get defensive. My only interactions with him up to this point have been good ones. I leave him to look at his chart. I'm reeling a little bit by his behavior and being called 'Bitch.' I take a few recovery breaths as I look in his chart. There is nothing alarming about his behavior noted.
I bring him out of the waiting room and have him sit on a chair in the hall. He is angry looking and doesn't look at me. I say, "Hey. What's going on with you? I've never seen you act like this before. You're being very disrespectful to me." I watch tears come to his eyes. He tells me he just got laid off. He tells me two weeks earlier he had to identify his brother's body at a morgue. We talk for a few minutes about his life. As we part, he extends his hand to me and apologizes. A few days later, he comes back to the clinic and asks to see me. He apologizes to me again.
Now ten months later, "I had no right to talk to you the way I did. I want to thank you for how you handled everything. What you said to me was exactly the right thing." I am struck by the thought he has given this, still apologizing to me almost a year later. I put my hand over my heart and tell him how touched I am. He says to me, "I'll never forget the respect you showed me." I thank him and tell him he can let this go now. I wish him luck at his new job.
This interaction reminds me to step away from a bad situation and give it some breathing room. It also reminds me the importance of giving someone space to tell their story.