Liar, Liar – July 7th

Patients want to hear the truth. The worst thing we do in healthcare is lie to patients, but we do it daily, and sometimes with the best intentions. It wasn’t until I watched the Lewis Blackman story for the second time, years after seeing it in my undergraduate nursing program, that I realized I’ve been lying to my patients and their families for nearly 5 years. As providers, and especially as nurses, we want to protect our patients. We see their struggles and their stressors, we watch them suffer, and we see their pain. So when something goes wrong, or even when a patient’s condition begins to decline, we try to guard them from that extra burden. We sugar coat the truth or tell them it will be okay when in fact the situation is far from okay. Yet, withholding the truth from patients and families does not protect them, it only hurts them. Talking around patients and families or whispering behind closed doors doesn’t do anyone any good. Knowing that something has gone wrong or that the situation is worsening is essential for the success of the healthcare team—which includes both providers and patients as equal contributors. Maintaining transparency is essential if we are going to provide patients with the highest quality care that is safe, satisfying, and effective. Now when I hear the question “is everything okay?” or “are they getting better?” I won’t feel as compelled to shield patients and families from the truth because withholding that information could do just as much damage as the physical illness or complication they are combatting.