I Had to Write This Email Today and I’m Pissed About It

Do me a favor and read this email I had to write today. You won’t need any context.

Good morning,

I am a physical therapy patient at the [redacted] office. This morning, while at the office, I witnessed some behavior from a therapist (not my own) which I found unsettling and unprofessional.

This therapist (a man) was talking openly about some controversial political topics with a coworker in what I believe was a brash tone. A patient (a woman) heard this, and, clearly in disagreement with the therapist, began to express her opposing opinion. After a brief and rather loud exchange, the therapist dismissed the woman, saying something along the lines of “goodbye, we’re done here,” and walked away. The patient then left.

Several minutes later, the therapist returned to the coworker with whom he was speaking before the altercation and began talking negatively about the patient’s intelligence: I believe one exact comment was “the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor.”

To be clear, I have no issue with anyone being free to discuss their political views however and wherever they so choose. But if one chooses to do so loudly, in a closed environment, and in the presence of those who may disagree, I would hope they would be open to a civil discourse. Instead, this therapist chose to be dismissive and rude; it is as if, since this patient did not agree with him, she was not entitled to speak.

I am not suggesting that this therapist’s political views are wrong; I am suggesting that his conduct when presented with an opposing viewpoint was unbecoming of a service professional.

But it is his comments after the fact that are even more distressing to me. To think that a therapist would insult a patient’s intelligence at all — let alone at work and within earshot of coworkers and other patients — is alarming. As a patient, this makes me wonder: do my therapists speak ill of me when I’m not around? When I finish my session, do they share a laugh at my expense? Would they do so if I expressed opinions that differ from theirs?

In fact, I don’t even believe this woman was this therapist’s patient, and yet he still found himself fit to disparage her. Is he doing the same to me, even though he’s never met me? It makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Regardless of differences of opinion, therapists and patients should always treat one another with respect. And as a healthcare provider, a therapist should know when engaging in certain conversations would jeopardize their all-important relationship with a patient.

A successful recovery is contingent upon a patient’s trust in his or her therapist. But comments and exchanges like this endanger that trust, and therefore recovery — the primary goal of a therapy center.

I have thus far greatly enjoyed and benefitted from my time as a [redacted] physical therapy patient. I hope that this misconduct will not be tolerated so that I can continue my recovery in a safe and trusting environment.

Thank you,
Jake Novak

I’m not just imagining that this is fucked up, right? A caregiver arguing with, belittling, and insulting a patient — perhaps solely because of a difference of opinion? Yeah, that’s pretty fucked up. And irresponsible. And scary.

I just used “scary” to define my place of healthcare. That’s not good.

We’re all well aware of the divisiveness of the times in which we live. The expressions of our polarized ideologies are becoming increasingly more personal, vitriolic, nasty. Embarrassingly, an exchange like this one would be considered mild if it happened on Facebook; on Twitter, it would have been the nicest thing you read all day.

But it didn’t happen on Facebook. It happened in the real world — in a fucking hospital

To their credit, the institute emailed me back swiftly with an apology and a promise that they “will definitely be investigating it.” 

But they shouldn’t have to investigate it. They shouldn’t have had to write me an apology, and I shouldn’t have had to email them in the first place, because this guy should never have said these things to or about that woman. His blatant disregard for manners and decency has troubled me all day.

Look, I get it. We’re all going nuts because shit’s getting real in the world. People are being bombed and shot and alliances are changing and Brexit’s happening and the U.S. gets a new kind of president on Friday and is Russia a problem? and the list doesn’t end. For better or worse, this turmoil has resulted in more people having strong opinions on where they stand and what they want. 

That’s great and all. But what is your opinion worth if you don’t value another’s? Why should someone listen to you if you won’t grant her the same audience? 

Stomping our feet and bitching with our like-minded pals does nothing to change the thing we bitch about most: that we don’t understand the other side. The only way to do that, of course, is to listen. But in order to listen, you first have to be able to stand the presence of someone who doesn’t agree with you. The therapist from this morning — a person whose job is to help people by listening to them — couldn’t even do that. 

Where does that leave the rest of us?

I fear that if this meanness can make its way into a medical office, we need far more help than any physical therapist can provide. Let’s just hope the surgeon doesn’t walk out on us, too.

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