My husband and I went to brunch yesterday at restaurant close to our home. We had just picked up our menus when our server came to greet us and, just as I recognized her as one of my patients, she proclaimed, "you're my doctor!"
"Doctor mode" instantly switched on, quite avolitionally. "Hi!" I heard myself say. "It's great to see you. How are things?"
Just as if we were in the office, our server/my patient comfortably launched into an update on her recent medical issues.
And then, she caught herself and switched gears. "Oh, I'm sorry. What would you like to drink?"
I'm sure that this scenario is a common one for many family docs. For me, though, as a suburban dweller working in an urban family health center, I rarely encounter my patients outside of the clinical setting. My neighborhood haunts are several miles away from theirs. I don't typically shop in their grocery store or walk on their streets...or run into them at a restaurant.
So, this scenario was a bit awkward for me. I worried about my patient - will she feel extra concern about taking care of us as customers? She might have thought that this bit of role reversal was somewhat odd.
I worried about myself, too. Better be on my best behavior, be extra polite, and leave a good tip. After all, she might judge my multiple buffet trips - filling my plates with eggs, bacon, french toast, prime rib, and bread pudding - when she's heard me counsel her about healthy lifestyles!
These thoughts were fleeting, though. "Doctor mode" somehow turned right off at the sight of that buffet, and my husband and I chatted airily about our Thanksgiving travels and the morning's church service.
When our server/my patient brought the check, I offered that I'd be happy to see her in the office to discuss her issues. She seemed pleased, and the encounter ended on an upbeat note.
And, yes, we did leave a very good tip.