A thank you makes a family doctor’s day

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?

Patient: Nothing.

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.

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  • edpullenmd

    Another great thing to hear from time to time is that something about a prior visit was taken to heart and a patient truly improved by following our advice. Quitting smoking, losing weight, more exercise, or another life style modification that was initiated or helped by our advice or encouragement. These things can make my day brighter.

  • rbthe4th2

    Let me add I’ve thanked doctors in writing, a number of them I said who is the boss and their address or email so I can tell them what good things I want to say about them.
    At the same time I tell everyone facts about the ones that missed a diagnosis, etc. I just have to tell facts. I don’t have to say any more. Its gotten to where I can quote dates, X was done, etc. People figure it out.

  • ninguem

    Paying the bill is nice too.


    On the flip side of that – it’s always nice to hear a physician/NP say “thank you”. I ALWAYS at the end of every patient visit say, “thank you for letting me take care of you today.”

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