Back in January I wrote for the BMJ about the phrase “trust me” and this afternoon I found myself using it in an unfamiliar way.
With most patients I use “trust me” as, in honesty, a pacifier/dummy. Here, take this and suck on it for a bit while I get on with fixing you.
Your panic and stress are getting in the way, your endless questions and frantic messing about your keys, your jacket, how you’ll get home, whether we’ll drop you.
I’m pretty good at what I do. We’re all pretty good at what we do.
But I’m not allowed to say “wheesht, you, I’m busy saving your life”.
So instead we say “Trust me”.
And they do.
That’s not entirely true. They pretend to. That’s their part of the bargain. I say “trust me” and they play along by chilling out for a wee bit.
Because they’re adults and they’ve all read the “how adults interact and don’t cause a ghastly scene…” leaflet that the British public get issued with in high school.
But today the words did something different.
They meant….what they mean.
Young lad. Ten years old. Fifteen feet up, rapid descent, even more rapid deceleration on impact with the ground.
I was concerned that he’d broken a vertebrae or two and the way he winced whenever he took a deep breath made me suspect that the big graze and haemotoma over his ribs was suggesting some horrible pleural contusions underneath.
He held things together quite well. Far better than I would do in the same situation. He had a bit of a blub when his Mum arrived, but then, as would I.
And when we rolled him into the vehicle his face suddenly changed, he chewed his lip, his eyes flicked sideways.
“What’s going on, mate?”
“Your face tells me something is going on. Does something new hurt?”
“Can you tell me what you’re thinking?”
“Can I guess? Sore? Embarassed? Scared? Worried? Cross?”
“Scared of anything in particular? Or just all the everything?”
“All the everything.”
“That’s fair enough. How’s this? You trust me and I’ll look after you, ok?”
And he nodded.
And his face relaxed.
And he got on with trusting me.
Not because he thought it was the socially acceptable thing to do, but because it was something he could actively get on with.
Give it a go with your patients next time – make trusting you their job. Not lip service, not an empty, placating mumble.
But a deal between the two of you.