Workplace Communication: The Curious Case of the Peeps

Posted by Dr. El - April 26, 2011 - Anecdotes, Communication - 9 Comments

It was around Easter time one year when the following exchange took place:

“Hand me my peeps,” Isabelle commanded from her geri-recliner.  She pointed to something behind me.

I turned and saw a package of yellow baby-chick-shaped marshmallows on her tray table. The word “Peeps” was written on the front of the box.  I handed them to her and watched as she stuffed one, and then another into her mouth.  As she picked up the third, I pointed to her red wristband.  “I guess you’re careful about the sugar with the diabetes.”

“I don’t have diabetes,” she stated flatly, munching the third peep.

This was only the second time I’d seen Isabelle, and I’d had to convince her to meet with me today.  I didn’t know if she had diabetes and had forgotten, or was in denial about it.  It was unlikely that her wristband was the wrong color, but she sounded so certain I had to consider the possibility.  “Red wristbands are for people with diabetes.”

“Everyone’s been saying that since I got here two months ago, but I don’t have diabetes.  Check my chart,” she directed me.  “Check it now.”

I went to the nursing station and pulled out the thick binder, reading through the diagnoses on the Physician’s Order Sheet.  No diabetes.  I went to the nurse, who thumbed through her records.  “No,” she said, “she’s right.  She doesn’t have diabetes.  I’ll change her wristband after I finish what I’m doing.”

I went back to Isabelle, who’d been referred for anxiety, and told her what happened.

“I wonder what other mistakes they’re making,” she said.

I had my work cut out for me, but, for now at least, Isabelle was letting me on her team.