A friend of mine owns his own window washing company. He is loud, boisterous, energetic, and utterly fantastic. He works ridiculously hard, and makes all his customers expectations are exceeded.
He recently told me about a potential customer of his. The person called and demanded that he come over and wash his windows. My friend had been mugged in that neighborhood previously and no longer worked in that area. Now this is where it gets interesting. He owns his own business. In my mind, he should be able to say: “Nope, not going to wash your windows, sorry.” He can do that, right? Well it turns out that the person who lived in that house happened to be an angry man. He thus sued my friend for discriminating against him. It ultimately went to court. The judge, who apparently knew this slime-ball person suing my friend told him to “get the hell out of my courtroom and stop bothering hard working people!”
Apparently, this guy had sued multiple times before. This was his living. He made money by suing people. Despite my friend “winning” the case, he had still accumulated $30,000 in legal fees in order to protect his business and his name. Cost to the other guy… $0. Thus, even when you can chose your customers, problems may arise.
I can’t chose my customers (I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of this terminology, patients are customers, as if they are coming into the Emergency Department to buy a gallon of milk and some Listerine (though one of the drunkest patients I have ever seen did get blitzed off Listerine (cool mint Listerine no less (such fresh breath for a drunk!))).
What most people don’t realize is that it’s not the sick ones ER docs dread. Give me a patient having a heart attack any day. I can help them and get them to the cath lab and make a difference. Find me a septic patient with awful pneumonia? Bring it on!
When I have a 22 year-old hypernourished patient with chronic abdominal pain who has “been feeling off” for the last forever come in complaining of chronic fatigue syndrome and Web MD diagnosed fibromyalgia that only hits her when she’s bored, I start to feel slightly irked about my customers.
Me: “Ma’am, it says here you have terrible abdominal pain”
Her: “Yeah, it’s been paining me for about a year.”
Me: “I see. Did you take anything for it?”
Her: (Puts down the king size Cheetos and leans over to put down the 2 liter of Mountain Dew) “Nothing works!”
Me: “Ah. Well, what have you tried?”
Her: Yeah. And I’ve been puking too.
Me: (Glancing at her bag of Cheetos with 1/8th remaining) But the nausea is gone now?
Her: No, I can’t eat anything.
Me: I see.
Her: Well, I tried my mom’s norco a few weeks ago, and that helped a little.
Me: What about today?
Her: What about today?
Me: Did you try any medicine today, seeing as this is the one day of your year-long pain you decided to get it checked out.
Me: Anything? Motrin?
Her: What’s that?
Me: Motrin? Ibuprofen? Tylenol?
Her: Nah, I’m allergic to tylenol.
Me: But you just said you take norco– nevermind. OK, well I’m going to have to run a few tests,
Her: (interrupting) Can I get two sandwiches and a big Coke
Me: I thought you were nauseated
Her: I am.
Me: Well, I’m off to give you your satisfaction survey and gouge out my eyes with a tongue depressor, nice chatting with you.
OK… so maybe it’s not that bad. However, I actually had a patient who had used norco but had never even heard of ibuprofen or Motrin. Oh well, the customer’s always right. Right?
This is my typical customer