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When a Patient Says 'Thank You'


I am quick to remind my patients that gifts are not necessary …but I do appreciate the thought and that is the most important part.

When I was in college, I spent two of my summer vacations volunteering with one of the family physicians in my hometown. Needless to say, it was a very gratifying experience and I enjoyed every minute of my shadowing. As I watched my physician conduct himself in a professional manner while seeing patients, I was amazed to see that he routinely received thank you cards, gifts of food, and other things that his patients would bring to him. He would look at me and say, " of these days Scott, your patients will do the same for you." Was he ever right.

As you know, I am a board certified family physician practicing in my hometown. The physician that I shadowed has since passed with colon cancer. How could I have known that the patients I saw with him on daily rounds at the hospital and in his office would one day come to my office to see me? I am often reminded of this when certain patients come through. "I remember when you used to follow Dr. Taylor around," is a familiar comment that patients say to me. I am thankful that they place their trust in me and I often remind them that I pattern my care after the late Dr. Taylor.

I am very grateful to my patients when they bring gifts to the office. I am very quick to remind them that gifts are not necessary, however I do appreciate the thought and the thought is the most important part of the gift. I received a very nice thank you card from the daughter of a patient that recently passed. The patient was in her late 90s and unfortunately suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke just one day before she passed. Her daughter elected to place her in hospice. The day she died, I sat by her bedside and rubbed her hand and told her that I hoped she recovered soon.

Another of my patients, an active deer hunter, routinely brings to the office homemade deer jerky. This very tasty snack is a routine just after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. As my patient leaves the office, he always thanks the office staff for his care and never fails to invite me to go hunting with him.

Since many of my patients have known me since my childhood, they know my hobbies and things I like to do for fun. One patient in particular knew of my love for Corvettes and one day just before she left the office she says, "...I have your birthday gift, doctor." I thanked my patient before she gave me her gift and again reminded her that the thought was most important. She was very eager to watch me open my gift and as I opened the box she told me that she wanted to buy my first Corvette. We sat there and laughed as I opened up a die cast Corvette 1:32 model.

I could go on and on to describe the gifts that patients have given to me through my years in practice. What we must remember is that the thought and intent of the patient to express their sincere thanks is of course the most important concept behind the gift-giving practice. I am very thankful that my patients place their trust in me for their care and am even more deeply humbled when they show their gratitude to me.

Find out more about Scott Litton and our other Practice Notes bloggers.

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