Saturday’s caravan of patients and friends was amazing. Each of the 55 cars pulled into the driveway, one by one, and stopped to chat with Renee and me. Each had a story to tell, some funny, some happy and some sad. In 34 years you accumulate many, many stories.
One patient remembered the pregnancy scare she had at 18 years of age. She was more afraid of her parents finding out about it then she was about being pregnant. She thanked me profusely for charging her for Strep test rather than a pregnancy test. There are those who would call switching codes illegal, inappropriate and unprofessional. I called it a holistic approach to my patient’s care, mind, body and soul. It obviously worked out well.
It’s taking care of the little things, going that extra step and addressing the patients concerns that make the difference in bonding the patient to their physician, creating a strong doctor-patient relationship. One of the most common things a teenager would say to me is, “My parents are going to kill me.” They were always floored by my response: Rather than belittling their apprehension and fear, I took it literally.
“Shit, I had no idea your parents were murderers. How many people have they killed? Should I be afraid to be in the same room with them? I’ve always suspected that your mother could turn on me in a split second! Should I call the police?”
Almost always my humorous approach would defuse the situation and allow us to find a solution and involve the parents. Humor belongs in the exam room which is the one place you rarely find it. Humor, when used appropriately, helps defuse tense situations, dissipate anxiety and facilitate understanding. Sometimes it backfires.
When my patient was really, miserably sick and was in the exam room with their spouse, I used to turn to the spouse and say, “I told you to give him all of the poison at once, otherwise he would suffer miserably.” Generally, I’d get a laugh out of my patient and the spouse and, at least for a few minutes, my patient would feel better. On one unforgettable day, I looked at the wife and started into my spiel when I realized that the look on her face was a” how do you know” look. Her husband caught it too and he got better when the poison was removed from his diet. Needless to say, the husband loves me, the wife does not!
Over the next few weeks, I hope to make you laugh a little and smile a lot by recounting some of the ways I incorporated humor into my practice of medicine. The stories are real and the patients involved in the stories have given permission to use them.
Here’s today’s music. At LZFTC we tried to give you what you wanted but, if we couldn’t, we worked hard to give you what you needed.