I’ve written previously about how doctors should refer to each other, and also about how patients and their families might refer to doctors. It reminded me that there are ways that people need doctors to be – to behave, dress, talk – in order to get the best out of a professional relationship.
In the UK, the GMC are very clear about this – that the way that we behave as members of a profession contribute to the way that the whole of the profession is perceived. There has been some grumbling about the application of this to social media. To be fair to both sides, the advice does look a little heavy handed, although the GMC has been quick to point out that the advice uses the word “should” which is different from when it says “must”, and is only expecting doctors who identify as doctors to behave as doctors…
But back to an earlier point. If I’m sitting here in shirt sleeves rolled up, and with no tie on, and not even calling myself doctor then how do I develop a therapeutic relationship where patients and their families get something out of the fact that I am actually a doctor?
Terry Pratchett has had a long career of smuggling important concepts into young – and not so young – minds by means of sharp humour and, well, stories involving witches and wizards. There’s a scene – and I apologise if I’m miss-remembering it – I’m sure a fellow geek will correct me – where a wizard is asked why he wears a hat with the letter W on it. The reason is, because he is a wizard. That sounds a bit trite, but it’s a helpful thought. He’s saying: The things that I do make me what I am able to do. So, what things to I do? Medical students, friends and colleagues might be able to come up with a few more, but off the top of my head I have the following things that make me a doctor in the doctor patient relationship.
- I’m clean and well presented. Well, sort of.
- I have a stethoscope around my neck. If I were being unkind, I’d see this as the equivalent of wearing my shirt open with a medallion on display.
- I’m polite and attentive
- I write with a fountain pen.
- I use slightly archaic language. So, I will say “Ghastly” – and might be one of the last people to use this word – to give the impression that I’m slightly other-worldly.
- I’m daft with children when it makes sense to be, but only in a way in which they will know that I’m playing.
- I ritually wash my hands.
- I perform an examination. I use the word perform here for a very particular reason.
- I sit in a hospital, and behind a brand, which means something to those who access it. There is more than a little bit of the pilgrimage in a visit to the hospital.
There are probably 101 others, but those are all I can think of for the moment.
Do you have things you do which make people understand, and gain from, the fact that you’re the doctor?