As I continue along this journey as a doctor, I find myself seeing many comparisons to ministerial positions. Something I’d like to talk about today is the curb-side consult.
(Now, this post may seem like it is mainly aimed for ministers, but even we lay saints can still glean from this idea.)
Late one night I was paged because a patient had fallen down and because he was complaining of side pain, I ordered a stat chest x-ray. It was read as no broken ribs by the overnight radiologist who tends to look at the films more quickly for just really bad stuff because it is usually a send out to companies who have a radiologist who reads for multiple hospitals (instead of at daytime where it is in house for just us). After checking the patient out, I ruled out all the baddies (puncture of the lung etc) and since he was still having pain I wrote in my note that a follow up x-ray was suggested be taken in a few days to see if he had a hairline rib fracture if his doctor felt it was necessary.
The next day I was paged TWICE within a short amount of time and quickly became the receiving end of the tirade of an upset neurologist. He wanted to know who I was and why I even saw his patient and who even consulted me to see his patient. As per standard protocol, any fall in the hospital overnight is evaluated by the intern on duty- ie ME. No one consulted me, I was just doing my job. I was never told that I was supposed to call this patient’s doctor. I had made sure to ask the nurse to pass along to his doctor that I was not sure if he wanted another chest x-ray but was recommending to at least examine for himself and see if he felt it was necessary.
The problem came when the daytime radiologist read the x-ray (standard for things read at night) and said that he actually DID have a broken rib and nursing never passed my message along to the doctor. Risk Management (a department that oversees things like falls in the hospital) then called him up and asked him what he was doing about his patient’s broken rib almost 12 hours after the event and he never even knew his patient fell.
During my conversation with this very upset doctor, I just kept apologizing because I did not know I was supposed to call him, it was not part of the protocol and I brought up the fact it might not be because doctors may not want to be called at 2 or 3AM about their patient falling if nothing was seriously wrong and they were stable. He informed me that some doctors go to their office first and may not round on their patients until 5PM-a fact that I did not know. By the end, since I was humble enough to just keep apologizing and did not fight, he ended up thanking me for taking care of his patient overnight and that I most likely did right by his patient, he just would have appreciated a call when it happened.
When someone we know is seeking advice on a life event, we need to be mindful of what we say/do. We, being not that person’s pastor, can give them advice at times that may seem right in our eyes, but perhaps goes against what that person’s pastor might say. In the end, it is ultimately that person’s pastor who is responsible for them and their spiritual well being. We don’t know the whole story. We don’t know both sides of how the interactions go down. What if we give/get the wrong information? Will you be humble enough to say “I”m sorry?” if you are called out on helping cause strife within a church or leading them to a destructive path? I’m not saying that you should go and report everything to someone’s pastor- but I am saying that we should be mindful that we might be giving a curb-side consult and not watching out for the final consequences of our actions. I should have called that doctor up and said something and/or ordered the follow up chest xray. Either way, I should not have just said “okay, I think he might need more, and I wrote it down but I don’t know if the message was received.”
If we are going to try to “fix” someone else in the church, we need to be ready to handle the consequences of what we did. We need to do the follow up, but more importantly, we should remember that ultimately, it may not be our place to even do that. Let’s pray for each other; help each other think of things that are honestly, just, pure, lovely, and of good report; and always keep in mind that unless we are someone’s pastor, we may be dabbling in a situation and walking away without thinking of the consequences of potentially no follow up. Praying together with someone is many times the absolute best remedy to anything that ails them