I got a question on the Facebook page for my podcastWhat\’s a nice thing to do when your doctor is retiring? My PCP is retiring in a couple months and while I scramble to find someone else (he\’s given me some recommendations), I wonder if there is some gesture I could make to show my appreciation…

My response was to that a nice note was worth more than any gift.  Then I got a note from the daughter of a patient today:

Dear Dr. Lamberts:

I am the daughter of ….. He is a new patient of yours.  I understand you are responsible for finding the problem with my dad\’s cholesterol and I think you for being so alert to something being wrong,  I heard him say many times that you saved his life.

Thank you Dr. Lamberts.  I am forever grateful.

That\’s what you should do to make your doctor feel good!  My gut response is, \”Of course I was trying to find anything that is wrong.  I am only doing my job.  I\’d be upset with myself if I didn\’t find his cholesterol!\”.  That is true, and everyone should only expect good care from their doctor.  The nature of my job puts me in the position to save people\’s lives, so it\’s not exceptionally noble that I do it (I think he might have overstated it a bit in this case).  But a word of thanks is always appreciated.

I don\’t feel under-appreciated, and this kind of card is not necessary.  There is some benefit to \”do my good works in secret,\” knowing I am helping people even when people don\’t send me cards.  I also know I don\’t practice perfect medicine.

This applies to all the people who do us good in life.  We need to be aware of the good others do for us and make sure they know we appreciate it.

Right now, I just appreciate that note.

(Yes, the cards are for sale – by someone other than me – see here for details)

13 thoughts on “Thanks”

  1. I’ve found, as I stumble through life, that “thank you” isn’t said enough in general, but particularly to people who do supposedly menial tasks – road sweepers, bus drivers, waiter/resses, binmen. I wrote a blog post about the effect of Small Words and their power. This post reminded me of mine. Thank you.

  2. I love receiving hand written notes or cards of thanks from patients (or anyone else — nieces, nephews, etc). I agree that this would be a lovely thing to do.

  3. I can’t speak to your skills as a doc, because I’ve never had the privilege to be your patient. But yours was the first med (& llama) blog I ever read, and I was immediately hooked. I am a medical student in limbo, trying to make quick decisions to determine whether I should continue my education and continue throwing myself face-first into debt for a profession whose future seems increasingly uncertain, or if I should quit school and be a fabulous wedding planner. When patients, classmates, and doctor stress me out, I can always return to your blog and re-read your doctor and patient rules…. and dream of the prospect of printing out these rules and tacking them onto the end of the HIPAA policy the patients sign. I always appreciate an honest and well-thought out perspective on the changing social situations of doctoring, in addition to your thoughts on the political and financial issues of being a doc these days. So despite the fact that I’ve never met you, and I cannot claim to know you in any respect, you have had a positive effect on my life and my career path. And for this, Dr. Rob, I thank you. 🙂

  4. After years of neurologists/neurosurgeons asking me “Do you have metal in your shunt?” “Um, I don’t know…” “Well, then, nevermind about an MRI, we’ll move on to something else”, my current neurologist insisted I find out, once and for all, if I have, or have had, metal in my shunt. I got a hold of my neurosurgeon at the time, who finally gave me a definitive answer–no. My neurologist ordered an MRI, and found four other brain abnormalities besides the hydrocephalus–one which I’d always suspected, and three which were complete news to me. After we returned from the ’08 Hydrocephalus Association convention, I loaded my printer with pretty stationery, chose a cursive-type font, and wrote out a heartfelt letter of thanks to my neurologist for all his help. I didn’t hand-write the entire letter, as my handwriting has gotten progressively worse each time I have brain surgery. But I did write out my signature.
    To this day, two years later, I have yet to receive any acknowledgement of my letter.

  5. One isn’t “required” to write thank you notes for a thank you note.* He did his job, you thanked him. What more do you want?Consider yourself lucky he did his job well, that is what he’s supposed to do. If doctors spent their days thanking their “thankers”, they wouldn’t have time to practice medicine.

    *Emily Post

  6. As I understand it, when I say “thank you”, you’re supposed to say “you’re welcome”. In this context, acting as though he never received the note is, in my opinion, much ruder than saying “I really appreciated the nice note you sent me.” That accomplishes two things–it lets me know he got the note, and it helps diminish the bad taste he left in my mouth when he decided to use me to satisfy his scientific curiosity. But I guess you’re right. Since insurance companies now insist on the five-minute doctor visit, he certainly can’t afford to waste valuable time acknowledging the note I sent.

  7. I have to confess, that I never even considered sending a “your welcome note” to this or others who gave me a card. Now, I would always mention it if I saw them in the office, thanking them for their kind gesture. I’ll tell this guy how nice it was to get something from his daughter. But I guess it just never dawned on me that people needed thank-yous acknowledged.

  8. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I never said, nor did I ever expect, that my neurologist should have responded with a handwritten note. But I admit to being very surprised that, at my next appointment with him after I sent him the note, he never said anything. I have no way of knowing if he never got the note, or if he got it but didn’t feel it worthy of a response. As I noted above, all I can figure is that his time is at such a premium that taking ten seconds out of his day to say “I got your note” is too much of a drain on his resources.
    As you stated above, “…I would always mention it if I saw them in the office, thanking them for their kind gesture…”. That’s all I’m asking for. Is that so hard? Apparently even you don’t think so, if you admit to doing it yourself.

  9. Got it. I agree that it would be awkward. I do my best to remember that kind of thing. I will say that I don’t always remember things (distractible) and so it just may be a sign of clueless guy syndrome. Everyone is different, but I suspect I’ve gotten that kind of thing and just forgot. I swear it’s the y-cromosome sucking the information from my brain.

  10. I just think you take something that probably isn’t a personal slight and make it an issue. You sound as though you feel your letter wasn’t valued when it is likely that he read and appreciated it and went on to see the other 20 patients he had to see that day, plus all the other things he had to do.My point is that is that one shouldn’t give expecting to receive in return. Yes, a thank you is nice but sometimes people forget who, did what.
    He saved your life, I consider that a great gift. It’s been 2 years and it’s still bothering you, or you wouldn’t write, it seems a waste of valuable energy. And being chronically ill myself, I know I can’t afford to waste energy on negative things. It’s just my opinion, take it or leave it.

  11. My current neurologist had nothing whatsoever to do with “saving my life”. The doctors at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago did that, 38 years ago. And it’s not “an issue” that I dwell on constantly, as you seem to imply. But if Dr. Rob writes a column about how nice it is to get his work acknowledged, would it not be logical that the incident with my neurologist would spring to the forefront of my mind? I don’t “waste energy on negative things”, but if the commenters on this thread misinterpret the things I’ve said, I have every right to respond with a (I hope) clarified version of events. I’d prefer to be considered a bitch on my own merits, not on those ascribed to me incorrectly by others.

  12. I was just trying to help ad perspective but I shall avoid that with you in the future. And you have achieved, on your own merits, what I try to avoid. Good day.

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