I See Patients


In The Sixth Sense there was that kid who saw dead people.  I’m like that.  But I see patients and their parents instead.  They’re all around me.

They’re watching at the grocery store when my kids act up.  We meet during anniversary dinners, at Christmas Eve service and on the treadmill at the Y.  I bump into parents when buying personal effects and even during the early morning coffee run in my oldest sweats.  I see patients.

The follow-up dialog between the parents might go something like this:

Dad:  “Marge, don’t you think Billy’s colitis might be better managed by a doctor capable of pulling himself together?”

Mom:  “Don’t be ridiculous, Frank.  DrV’s bed head has nothing to do with his ability to care for Billy.  And besides, I’ve heard that he can intubate the terminal ileum in under 10 minutes.”

It’s not that I necessarily mind being seen in the wild.  I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, even when it’s glistening after a workout.  I’m bothered more by the fact that patients may be repulsed by my occasional bedraggled appearance.  If I knew they were good with it I might be less caught up with the whole matter.

And of course I make the assumption that my parents give a shiitake about what I’m doing or how I’m dressed.  But for what it’s worth, patients sometimes detail where they’ve seen me and precisely what they’ve seen me doing.  I never know exactly what to say.  It’s endearing while at once creepy.

Everyone talks about physician visibility and behavior in social media.  Few talk about visibility and behavior in public spaces.  Perhaps the AMA should publish guidelines for IRL physician behavior.

Of course this whole thing could be settled with a shower and a quick shave.  Or maybe there are privacy settings for buying a latte.

Icon via Artua