Something very interesting happened to my patient visits when I changed my office attire.
My clean long cotton lab coats, hanging on the back of my office door, suddenly all seemed dingy when I set out to change lab coat about a week ago. I decided to pretend it was Saturday.
On Saturdays, I usually wear a pocketed button-down shirt instead of one of my usual Jermyn Street ones. I skip the lab coat, hang my stethoscope around my neck, put some pens in my breast pocket and attach my magnetic name tag. I still wear a tie, but sometimes with a doctor motif or Snoopy (I miss my beagles).
On Saturdays, I seldom have very serious visits. Most are physicals for working people and sick visits, sore throats, earaches and such. Nobody from the administration, lab or X-ray is in, there are fewer messages, no faxes, and no meetings. It’s just me, a medical assistant and the patients. It’s all very basic.
So there I was, deciding to go coatless. I put the magnet inside my pocketless English shirt, and the name tag lined up outside, draped the stethoscope around my neck, clipped a pen inside my pants pocket and entered the exam room to greet my first patient of the day.
“Nice shirt,” said the sixty-something man. He was chattier than usual, I noted quietly. I had two more similar compliments that day, and I started to feel something was different about the dynamic in the exam room.
Since then, I have had the distinct impression that my visits are more laid back, more intimate and less demanding. It’s as if my patients are relating to me in a more personal way, even though I’ve always felt very close to my patients. I have also not had a single patient try to cram in a long shopping list of concerns I couldn’t possibly address in one single visit. I feel as if everyone is viewing me as more human, just as competent, but not a healthcare robot or action hero.
I still delivered good and bad news, I still explained the inner workings of the body in plain English, and I still typed away with only two fingers on the computer or my iPad. But I felt as if a veil had been lifted and my patients saw me as more than just their doctor, or dared to treat me that way.
“A Country Doctor” is a family physician who blogs at A Country Doctor Writes:.
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