Wine for the doctor

One of my friends shared this article at the NYT with me. While the article itself is a straightforward discussion of wine as a gift for your doctor, it led to a series of very interesting comments.

The commentators are divided into three groups. Some relate the story of a doctor that saved their or their loved ones' lives, and they were only too happy to show their appreciation with a bottle of wine, a letter, cookies or flowers. There were the doctors who said almost unanimously that while gifts were not expected, they were much appreciated. And there was the third group that said doctors made too much money anyway and should not expect a 'tip'. Some in the last group related bitter experiences they had while seeking healthcare.

In our program, we are encouraged not to accept gifts, but the final decision tends to rest with the physician. I don't accept gifts of material value from the patients, and I don't display letters, cards and such in my office, so that my patients don't feel a gift is expected. But the article reminded me of the one gift that has pride of place in our house.

Last year, both A and I left residency programs that we loved (and were very well liked in) to transfer to this place, so that we could be in the same city. Living a thousand miles apart had taken its toll on us both. The move wasn't easy..while people were friendly, we were trying to establish ourselves in programs where we hadn't been trained, and our previous training did not quite match the current expectations. In A's case, he was(is) the only international medical graduate in the program, and there was added pressure to prove himself.

About a month after the move, his program mailed him a box. Inside was a smooth, polished stone painted an eggshell blue. Stars surrounded his name painted in an elegant cursive. The accompanying note said, 'From a grateful patient, for four days of great care.'  That gift made our day, maybe even our week. He wouldn't stop smiling, and I might have cried a little.

Its amazing how some people don't seem to understand how much they can affect their doctors. We are trained to be calm and professional, to not get intimate. But we do, anyway. Everything our patients do (or not do) affects us. I feel best when all my patients show up for clinic and they're doing well. If somebody doesn't show up, or they quit taking their meds, or they end up in the hospital, all of that affects me personally. Maybe going out in the world of private practice and HMOs changes things some, but surely not that much.

Whats your take on this?

Read and post comments


About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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19 Responses to Wine for the doctor

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks for the perspective. I'm never sure whether to give my doctors extra recognition. It seems like they must get so much crap at the holidays, having so many patients! And I don't want to interfere with the professional distance. But in reality I'll bet the acknowledgement would be welcome.

  2. Purplesque says:

    Personally I think notes of appreciation are best. They convey the point without crossing any boundaries.

  3. Aubrey says:

    Sometimes the burden of gratitude is very great. To be able to make a gift with your hands is very strengthening and theraputic. It was right for A. to accept that beautiful stone. No matter how wonderful if made him – made you both – feel, the giving of it made the patient feel even better.

  4. Purplesque says:

    That's such a lovely thought. Thank you, Aubrey.

  5. Karen Lynn says:

    Gosh I never ever thought of gifting a doctor. What a beautiful from the heart gift A received. Tell him whenever things are tough, rub that stone. You are such an awesome person P. (((hugs)))

  6. Purplesque says:

    Thank you, Karen. A is now considered the best resident in this program as well, and people routinely stop me to tell me how lucky I am. Maybe it was just the initial settling-in, but I like to believe the wishes of that grateful patient changed our luck. πŸ™‚

  7. Karen Lynn says:

    His talent is what got him to where he is! You too! Where were you guys living before? I can't imagine 1000 miles between DH and I. I'm glad things are working out and you are settling in comfortably. ((((hugs)))ps: where can I find 3 of those rocks for my cancer doctors? hehe

  8. Purplesque says:

    He was up in Michigan and I was in Mississippi..not don't need to send your docs anything. The rock is smoothened river stone, I think.

  9. Karen Lynn says:

    Oh man that would so suck being so far apart. I'm glad things are falling into place for you now! Take a picture of the rock!

  10. Purplesque says:

    πŸ™‚ Yes. Here's a pic of the rock..a little shaky.

  11. Lakshmi says:

    I think all of us like little tokens of appreciation. And doctors make us live better. So, what IS wrong in showing our appreciation? A single flower? A chocolate? A book? Just a thank you card?We gifted my ob-gyn a book after our little one was born, with a note thanking her for giving us a gift for life, and her eyes welled up.

  12. Purplesque says:

    Awwww. Can I deliver your next baby? ( How many psychiatrists does it take to deliver a baby? One, but the baby has to want to be delivered. )Okay, bad joke. But seriously, we need to go back to the life of thank you notes and compliments and hand-made tokens of appreciation. For everybody. There is nothing wrong with that and everything right.

  13. Emjay says:

    I had never thought of giving a doctor a gift – I have written little notes of thanks for a few things – I have also written to nurses who I think can be terribly under-appreciated. Where I work we have an "ethics" thing where we can not accept anything over a certain value.

  14. Purplesque says:

    I agree..nurses probably spend the most time caring for patients, with much less appreciation. Thank you notes are good..I stay away from gifts myself. I've also called supervisors a few times to tell them what a good job their people are doing.

  15. bee says:

    i have no hesitation giving gifts to my physician or showing my appreciation. they are human beings after all, and react like everyone else – with gratitude and appreciation.

  16. First — I'm sorry I'm late getting here– I misssed this post!!Second – I tried to look at the rock but Vox wouldn't let me…?Third – OMGOSH!! I didn't know you'd been separated like that! How awful! I'm glad you're together now!I can't imagine how tough it is to learn to be any kind of doctor– not necessarily the information/skill set — I could proabably slog my way through that somehow — but the hours and the toll it must take on your psyche and what it must do to you in terms of how you see the woprld…Wow. You deserve a HUGE round pf applause both of you — really — this world, here, with our healthcare system, isn't too friendly for anyone and I think it's remarkable that anyone wants to jump in and be a doctor or nurse, at all.Gifts? Yow….I can understand why a special one is so imporatant and why you'd want to discourage them, too…it's a tricky thing. I suppose that most of the time, the best gift is to see that what you're doing is helping? Or that the patient is just better (and maybe you know why)…But I also know that some people want desperaetely to thank their doctors and caregivers, any way they can, no real opinion, I guess.Now I'm going to visit the blueberry post…..*waves*

  17. Purplesque says:

    First, no problem. Second, I deleted the rock (it had A's full name on it, but I can upload it again if you'd like. πŸ™‚ Third, I'm glad, too. Thanks!I'm not sure about the tough part, seems more and more that its not hard to do anything, its just hard to do anything well . As a physician ( or in any field of work), I can perform at a hundred different levels of skill, depending upon how much effort I put in it. That's the real trick for try and be my best.Gifts are tricky, so I like to avoid them. Yet there's always that one patient who is always nice and hugs me or sends me a card..and makes my day. You're right, though..if all my patients would take their meds and stay out of the hospital, I'd take that any day over everything else!

  18. upload it Oh, that's OK, but thank you!! — I completely understand not wanting your name(s) out there- I'm very careful about that too! I guess I see it as particularly tough because I never ever wanted to be around sick people…..I'd rather be captain of a space shuttle or running a particle accelerator (like I have a clue how !! haha!!) than dealing with people and their illnesses. To go to school and then do residencies and be board-certified and specialize and all of the work and hours that requires…wow. Mind-boggling. Maybe loving what you're doing makes the difference? It does in other areas, so I suppose it does in your fields too. I really admire your commitment to people and their well-being.

  19. Purplesque says:

    Oh yes. the actual studying part is hard at times, but I absolutely love what I do. And to do it well, I must study. No getting around To man a space that would be cool!

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