A few years ago, my primary doctor suggested a dentist who would be closer to home for me, and who had done some good work for one of his relatives. I went for the initial appointment, agreed to the $200, and sat in the chair with my back to the door.
I heard someone come in behind me, and papers rustling. Puzzled, I asked, "Hello?"
It was the doctor. I made some comment, and he said to my back, "I like to look at the file before I talk to the patient."
I wanted to say, "I like a dentist to speak to me when he comes in, not ignore me." In the waiting room were large vases of flowers that I assumed were from happy patients. I was not happy. I never went back.
Today KevinMD had an article by Claire McCarthy, MD, called What To Do If Your Doctor Isn't Polite. Of course, that's the first article I read. And it made me very happy.
She begins by saying she's almost afraid to ask if a doctor who's new to us introduces himself, explains why he is there and what he is supposed to do for us?
She mentions her experience - that doctors who forget to be polite (to us) are are often very pleasant and polite except with the patient.
She talks about teaching communication skills to residents at Boston Children's Hospital. (Thank goodness.) Mentions being themselves and thinking of patients...as friends. (Then, what I think should be carved above hospital and doctors' office doors) "... better relationships lead to better care."
By then I'm really smiling! I've blogged here what I liked about my favorite doctors, including my new surgeon. They they felt like friends, sometimes from the very first meeting.
Isn't it easier to accept what we have to do when we hear it from a doctor friend? Isn't it easier to believe he or she is going to some trouble for us - not just announcing treatment A, and then leaving the room?
If a doctor doesn't take the initiative, she suggests we hold out our hand, introduce ourselves, and ask the doctor to sit down.
Okay, this gives me a little guilt nudge: As we enter a doctor's office for the first time, or when a doctor we haven't met enters our room, have we already made up our minds he'll act like a stranger and be distant and formal?
Am I ready to experiment with holding out my hand and asking the doctor to sit down?