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?