Hi Doc!

\"michael-jackson-waving-wearing-glasses\"\”Hi Dr. Rob!\”

I look up and see a familiar face and smile. I am out shopping and one of my patients has recognized me.

This kind of thing happens pretty often – especially in certain stores. Our town is of moderate size (around 200,000) and so this is somewhat dependent on where I am going, but it can happen any time, any place. When you take care of 4000+ people (and cover for more than twice that number), the odds are in favor of you being recognized at some point.

They are usually somewhat tickled at seeing me in jeans or shorts, and simply say \”hi\” to me. Most of the time I can get away without dealing with medical questions, although that does happen from time to time. To some extent, the reaction depends on my relationship with the patient, which varies widely:

  • Infrequent visitors – these are patients that I don\’t recognize because they don\’t come to my office very often. It is always uncomfortable to me when they say hello, as I have to deal with my poor face-recognition skills. Sometimes I come out and ask them their name, but most of the time I just act like I am as thrilled as they are to see me in public. It is rare that these people ask me anything medical. My response to them is usually, \”uhh…..hi!  Good to see you….how have you been doing lately?\”
  • Frequent flyers – They may have been sick a lot lately, but generally they are just \”high utilizers.\”  They are willing to take up a lot of time in the office, so they are also likely to do so outside of the office.  They are very likely to ask medical questions.  While I don\’t want to look like I am trying to avoid them, I am generally trying to get away without too many visits.
  • Really sick patients – These patients are ones where I not only recognize them, but can recite their medication list and what my plan of action is on their current medical situation. These are the patients I will worry about when I am not in the office. I usually am glad to see them as I want an update on how they are doing.  I am more likely to ask them questions.
  • People who I enjoy – There are certain patients I am drawn to.  They are either like me in many ways (for that they get my deepest sympathy), or they are just good to talk with.  I am happy when they come into the office and also when they bump into me at the hardware store.  I would enjoy having these people over to my house for dinner, although I haven\’t ever crossed that line.
  • Friends who became my patients – I have a number of people who I knew outside of the office who became my patients.  Most likely this is from church, so I see them weekly.  I have no problem with them asking questions, as they are usually very aware of the boundaries in our relationship.  If they need to come in, I will tell them and they are fine with that.
  • People who think they are my friends – These folks know me slightly from outside the office and use that as license to \”easy access\” to me.  My office staff created the Rob Rule, which states that people who call asking for an appointment with Rob are generally not really my friends, but just trying to act like them.  If I see these people in public, I do my best to duck and cover.  I am likely to get into a prolonged uncomfortable conversation with these folks.
  • Kids I care for – I almost always am happy to see the kids – especially when they run up and hug me.  This is one of the perks of doing pediatrics.  The parents sometimes corner me, but not too often.

\"apu\" I was just in the hardware store when the cashier asked me, \”are you a doctor?\”  When I said my name she became very apologetic, as obviously I am her doctor and she did not recognize me.  The irony of it is that I had no idea she was my patient.  She looked vaguely familiar, but I had to reassure her that there was absolutely no offense taken.

Rural Doctor did a great post about a lady asking her questions in the check-out line.  A small town doctor must have it harder, as there is much more chance of anonymity here where I live.  She has no way to avoid it.  I don\’t think I could handle that.

Still, there are certain stores where I am nearly guaranteed to see one or more of my patients.  One of the docs I work with refuses to go to certain stores for this reason.  To me it is the price for the job I do.  The good news is that people are generally happy to see me, and when my wife is with me they tell her what a good doctor I am. 

They hope I\’ll give them a discount on their next visit when they do that.

26 thoughts on “Hi Doc!”

  1. Do YOU get a discount in the stores where you are recognized?This sort of thing almost never happens to me. The most the patient sees of me is a darker shadow in a darkened ultrasound scan room.

  2. Do YOU get a discount in the stores where you are recognized?This sort of thing almost never happens to me. The most the patient sees of me is a darker shadow in a darkened ultrasound scan room.

  3. I get a varied reactions too. Some are pleased to acknowledge they know me. Some want to show me their scars (no always a good idea). Some don’t want the folks with them to know I’m a plastic surgeon. It can be “interesting” to say the least.

  4. I get a varied reactions too. Some are pleased to acknowledge they know me. Some want to show me their scars (no always a good idea). Some don’t want the folks with them to know I’m a plastic surgeon. It can be “interesting” to say the least.

  5. I have a terrible time putting a name to the familiar faces. My usual, safe comment is “How’s the family?” They all have families when you’re a pediatrician!

  6. I have a terrible time putting a name to the familiar faces. My usual, safe comment is “How’s the family?” They all have families when you’re a pediatrician!

  7. Great post. I love running into my kids/babies, which is why I don’t mind going to our Farmer’s Market–most of the young families go there on sunny days and I get to see “my” babies.

  8. Great post. I love running into my kids/babies, which is why I don’t mind going to our Farmer’s Market–most of the young families go there on sunny days and I get to see “my” babies.

  9. So..Do you give them the discount? 😉
    Interesting post. I’ve wondered what Docs do when they run into their patients.

    My PCP hollered out to me with a big wave and a smile when he saw me walking near him at a concert. I did the same with him just as enthusiastically but went to go back to friends because the concert was about to start. If I had run into him at the store I most certainly would’ve chatted but never anything medical because he is off the clock then. We always have stuff to say. I hardly see him any more because I haven’t been making appointments.

    I have also run into a few I have worked with and just keep it breezy and move on. 🙂

  10. So..Do you give them the discount? 😉
    Interesting post. I’ve wondered what Docs do when they run into their patients.

    My PCP hollered out to me with a big wave and a smile when he saw me walking near him at a concert. I did the same with him just as enthusiastically but went to go back to friends because the concert was about to start. If I had run into him at the store I most certainly would’ve chatted but never anything medical because he is off the clock then. We always have stuff to say. I hardly see him any more because I haven’t been making appointments.

    I have also run into a few I have worked with and just keep it breezy and move on. 🙂

  11. I got stuck in the hospital elevator with one of my doctors. For the life of me, I could not remember his name, nor which specialty he was. We kept glancing at each other and after a couple of floors I finally said”oh geesh, I know you’re my doctor, but for the life of me, I have no idea who or what!”
    He laughed and told me his name. I still stared blankly and he said GI doc.

    “OH! YEAH! You’re the guy that makes my blood pressure rise!!!”
    At which point, he made a sudden recollection as to who *I* was … (I would get terrible white coat hypertention in his office ..)

  12. I got stuck in the hospital elevator with one of my doctors. For the life of me, I could not remember his name, nor which specialty he was. We kept glancing at each other and after a couple of floors I finally said”oh geesh, I know you’re my doctor, but for the life of me, I have no idea who or what!”
    He laughed and told me his name. I still stared blankly and he said GI doc.

    “OH! YEAH! You’re the guy that makes my blood pressure rise!!!”
    At which point, he made a sudden recollection as to who *I* was … (I would get terrible white coat hypertention in his office ..)

  13. The questions I get are rarely life-threatening issues either. I have a friend who is a mechanic, and whenever his wife asks me a pediatrics question, I feel free to ask him about car stuff. Kind of a barter system of advice.

  14. The questions I get are rarely life-threatening issues either. I have a friend who is a mechanic, and whenever his wife asks me a pediatrics question, I feel free to ask him about car stuff. Kind of a barter system of advice.

  15. People who work at Planned Parenthood have it rough too. You know, when the person at the supermarket keeps saying “Say, I know you from somewhere…”
    My favorite: a children’s librarian, who was taking a shower after swimming at the Y. Suddenly, a little voice hollered out “Look, mommy! It is the story hour lady and she is NAKED!”. My friend said that next week, at storytime, she saw a sea of toddlers, all envisioning her nude.

    ouch.

    Hey, you are a celebrity to me and I wouldn’t know ya if I saw ya,

    your blog fan,
    tl

  16. People who work at Planned Parenthood have it rough too. You know, when the person at the supermarket keeps saying “Say, I know you from somewhere…”
    My favorite: a children’s librarian, who was taking a shower after swimming at the Y. Suddenly, a little voice hollered out “Look, mommy! It is the story hour lady and she is NAKED!”. My friend said that next week, at storytime, she saw a sea of toddlers, all envisioning her nude.

    ouch.

    Hey, you are a celebrity to me and I wouldn’t know ya if I saw ya,

    your blog fan,
    tl

  17. I get exactly where you and “Rural Doctor” are coming from. Ok, it’s not even possibly literally life or death even when I get it wrong, but I sometimes get similar issues with people who know I’m a software engineer asking me questions about computers, usually about how to get rid of virii or spyware, or recovering files (either without the backup they don’t have, or without mentioning the fact that they have a backup until after they’ve used it).

  18. I get exactly where you and “Rural Doctor” are coming from. Ok, it’s not even possibly literally life or death even when I get it wrong, but I sometimes get similar issues with people who know I’m a software engineer asking me questions about computers, usually about how to get rid of virii or spyware, or recovering files (either without the backup they don’t have, or without mentioning the fact that they have a backup until after they’ve used it).

  19. When we moved to our small town in WI from the Chicago area, I was astonished to see the area doctors listed in the residential section of the phone book. Home addresses and phone numbers! Most docs in town now live elsewhere, I assume out of self-defense. It’s a different world.Re your poor face recognition skills: do you believe that “face blindness” is a real condition? Never heard of it before about a year ago, but it sure would explain a few things about me.

  20. When we moved to our small town in WI from the Chicago area, I was astonished to see the area doctors listed in the residential section of the phone book. Home addresses and phone numbers! Most docs in town now live elsewhere, I assume out of self-defense. It’s a different world.Re your poor face recognition skills: do you believe that “face blindness” is a real condition? Never heard of it before about a year ago, but it sure would explain a few things about me.

  21. Not a doctor, but I’m a teacher so I understand where you are coming from. There are some parents that I will chat an hour with at the supermarket. Then there are others where I literally will do an about-face if I think they have not seen me.
    I think my most memorable conversation was when a parent cornered me in the market and started going on about how her daughter was physically maturing and growing into being a young woman (complete with ALL of the changes) – and her daughter was standing 3 ft away!

  22. Not a doctor, but I’m a teacher so I understand where you are coming from. There are some parents that I will chat an hour with at the supermarket. Then there are others where I literally will do an about-face if I think they have not seen me.
    I think my most memorable conversation was when a parent cornered me in the market and started going on about how her daughter was physically maturing and growing into being a young woman (complete with ALL of the changes) – and her daughter was standing 3 ft away!

  23. Sue: I worked in a youth group for a couple of years where knowing someone’s name was VERY important. I put my mind to it and got so I could put a name to a face almost immediately. Some of it does have to do with the ability to remember in certain ways, but some of it is that we just don’t think it is that important.Catherine: Yeah, I guess teachers would have it tough as well. Some parents are crazy that way. I have had that type of situation in the exam room and cringed the whole time, but in the Supermarket? That is hideous.

  24. Sue: I worked in a youth group for a couple of years where knowing someone’s name was VERY important. I put my mind to it and got so I could put a name to a face almost immediately. Some of it does have to do with the ability to remember in certain ways, but some of it is that we just don’t think it is that important.Catherine: Yeah, I guess teachers would have it tough as well. Some parents are crazy that way. I have had that type of situation in the exam room and cringed the whole time, but in the Supermarket? That is hideous.

  25. How funny is that…I had a similar experience to this (in reverse) on a previous job wherein I was working on a register & realized that my customer was a doc I’d been a patient of and hadn’t seen in over a decade! It was totally funny…until I got asked 20 questions about the condition he’d seen me for, which was weird. Luckily there weren’t any more customers around since it was slow that day… & actually, I used to run into my former pediatrician occasionally, too.

  26. How funny is that…I had a similar experience to this (in reverse) on a previous job wherein I was working on a register & realized that my customer was a doc I’d been a patient of and hadn’t seen in over a decade! It was totally funny…until I got asked 20 questions about the condition he’d seen me for, which was weird. Luckily there weren’t any more customers around since it was slow that day… & actually, I used to run into my former pediatrician occasionally, too.

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