In this scenario, I am a physician at the end of a long shift at a walk-in clinic when Tina, a colleague and friend, asks if I can see her partner and prescribe them antibiotics. However, I still have patients waiting to see me and family commitments that require I leave the clinic on time. My main concern here is seeing my patients in a timely manner and addressing their health issues. I also need to be mindful that I keep my spouse aware of my timing, as I need to get home on time to look after our children. I also should acknowledge my friend’s request, as she is reaching out to me for help.
First, I would need to gather some more information. I would need to clarify whether I can actually treat Tina’s partner or not. If they are both close friends, it may not be ethically right for me to treat them as patients. If it seems like I can treat my 3 waiting patients in a relatively efficient manner and then see Tina’s partner at the end of the day to assess his problem, I will do that and let Tina know that her partner can come see me. However, if it seems like my waiting patients need longer to be properly and fully assessed and I will have to leave for home immediately after their appointments, I have two options. First, I can check in with my spouse to see if there is any way I can be a little late coming home and they can wait at home with our children until I arrive, without interfering with their working shift. Failing that, I can offer Tina and her partner some alternatives for receiving care today or early the following day.
If there is no way that I can stay longer at my clinic and I need to get home to look after my children, then I cannot see Tina’s partner at the end of the day. I will let Tina know that, unfortunately, I am unable to help in this situation. I will fully explain why I cannot see her husband today and that I have patients whose health is important and who have been waiting to see me. I will speak to her non-confrontationally and gently to ensure she does not get upset. I will also proactively suggest other avenues for Tina to seek help, such as perhaps seeing an available colleague at my clinic or going to a walk-in clinic or urgent care. Under no circumstances would I not see one of the waiting patients and see Tina’s husband instead, as this would be unprofessional and I need to make sure my patients are looked after.
I will proactively look into improving the scheduling system used at my clinic, perhaps by leaving a couple of empty slots for urgent patient concerns that come up during the day. I will also check in with Tina to see if her husband was able to get the help he needed. By prioritizing my patients’ well-being, as well as the need to be home on time to look after my children, as well as considering different ways to help Tina and her husband, I hope to effectively resolve this conflict.
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