I had a pretty grueling office session yesterday — one of those days where you’re sending someone to the hospital and calling another consultant on the phone and bouncing among three rooms at once. A typical family medicine day.
I was 45 minutes late seeing my last patient. I was a little surprised that she was still on the schedule — we had actually resolved her issue over the phone the week prior, and I told her then to feel free to cancel this appointment. As I knocked on the door, I wondered if something new had happened and why she was willing to wait so long to see me.
She started the visit by reviewing what we had talked about last week, and we both made sure that we were still on the same page. After that, there was an awkward pause.
Me: What else can I do for you today?
Me (confused look on face): So … you came in today to make sure there was nothing else to do? Do you have any questions?
Patient: No, I just wanted to say thank you.
A seemingly mundane task from our end can have a big impact on a patient’s life. We don’t expect our patients to routinely give anything back to us, maybe because we worry that our gift of service could then make our patients feel obligated to give back.
Needless to say, I was overcome with appreciation at this selfless act. It was an incredible gesture that said more about this patient’s character than my own, yet still reminded me why I’m a family doctor.
I don’t expect it all the time, but, every now and then, a “thank you” is awfully nice to hear.
Jennifer Middleton is a family physician who blogs at The Singing Pen of Doctor Jen.