Everyone likes to be recognized for a special achievement or accomplishment. Every career has special awards and commendations for everything. While there’s no reward that matches cold hard cash, many of these honorable mentions have no tangible value whatsoever. Pull into a fast food parking lot and you may see a parking space designated with a sign proclaiming, employee of the month! Such an award conveys appreciation but does little to enhance the standard of living of the recipient.
It seems that every other week there is some award show on television for the arts and entertainment industry.
I’d like an award, or at least a citation, for the work that I do as a gastroenterologist. Fortunately, there are many awards and honors that I am eligible for. Here are some of the prestigious honors that would illuminate any curriculum vitae:
- Fellow of the American College of Flatulence
- Honorary Doctorate of Hemorrhoidology
- Election to the Sphincter Preservation Society
- Light at the End of the Tunnel Award
- 20.000 Scopes Under the Sea Award
Sadly, I wasn’t nominated for any of these prestigious designations, but I have not been left empty handed. I received a special letter of commendation from my community hospital signed by a physician of authority. When I say signed, I mean that a living breathing human being applied a real pen to paper. This was no autopen or stamped signature. The document is suitable for framing. In fact, despite my legendary modesty, I posted the letter in the break room of our practice so that my colleagues and staff would confer the measure of respect that was now due me.
After a few days, the letter was taken down, probably by one of my envious partners who was not similarly honored. As a result of this action, the break room is now monitored by a webcam to deter such acts of vengefulness.
The letter did not speak to my diagnostic skills or to my rapport with patients. It said nothing about my cost-effective care or my peer evaluations.
The letter commended me for my consistent hand washing.
I assume that nurses in the hospital are now charged with monitoring physician hand-washing practices, which is a task they can easily perform in their abundant free time. If funds would permit, the hospital might hire professional hand washing monitors who could verify that physicians and everyone are scrubbing up consistently.
Contemplate the notion of a doctor being complimented for washing his hands. Can we set the bar just a little higher?
Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower.
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