So, I blew it.
It wasn't the first time, and it certainly won't be the last.
I was in clinic last week, and I greeted my patient who had been waiting about an hour. I could tell he was upset. I would certainly be upset if I waited an hour. Sadly, I can only move as quickly as there are attendings available to hear the case. No attending = I wait to present the case = I get backed up = my patients wait. It's the nature of the beast that is a training program.
Turns out he was a bit peeved at the wait. However, he was mostly upset that I had forgotten to order his labs to be drawn 2 weeks prior to the visit. With HIV patients, you bring them in every 3-6 months to look at their CD4 counts and viral loads. No labs? Nothing to talk about and nothing to do. A waste of a visit.
I could've gotten defensive: why didn't he call in and tell me when he went to the lab 2 weeks ago, so I could've ordered them on the spot? Why didn't he just call that day and change his appointment so we could get his labs done? There were a few ways we could've salvaged things if he had been proactive.
However, the blame was mine: I forgot to order them. I took a deep breath and just said sorry. I told him that he was right, that I had forgotten, that I had wasted his time, and that I was sorry. Contrary to the Movie-of-the-Week, this did not end in hugs and rainbows. He was pissed and left unhappy. But, I heard him and acknowledged the hardship I had caused. He looked a little relieved, which is nice, but ultimately he was going to be upset with me. And that's ok.
Not everything turns out peachy, and I am not a perfect doctor (or person for that matter!). I can only show my patients the respect they deserve by confessing my mistakes and apologizing for them. Hopefully, when he comes back in 3 months, we can have a better doctor-patient relationship because of it. But, if he never wants to see me again, at least I was honest with him. That's the best I could do.