Sleepless night woes

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I handle HIV testing, and as part of that role I provide people with their test results. It can be really emotional giving people bad news. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping at night, because it’s a pretty heavy job. One morning I was particularly exhausted, after tossing and turning most of the night. I was handling my first patient and before giving him his results, I took him through the required pre-counseling. 

I stepped out of the room for a few minutes and made a coffee to give me a boost, and then returned to give him his results. Unfortunately, exhaustion had outdone me, and my brain had been overtaken by a thick fog, creating a serious mix up. Rather than telling my patient that his test results were negative, I made a serious mistake and said the words: “Your test results came back positive”. 

 

As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized my mistake, not because I had heard myself say the wrong words. No, but because I watched my patient’s face contort in horror. My mistake dawned on me and I quickly corrected my error. I apologized profusely, but I almost gave the man a heart attack. I’d like to tell you that I learned a lesson here on the importance of sleep and double checking results before opening my mouth. I’d love to tell you that this error hasn’t happened since, but I’d be lying. I’ve gotten much better at playing it off as a joke, though. 

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