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Today's Doctors
Mom with a View

Today's Doctors

I think casual has gone too far.


I think I've morphed into the Paul Lynde character in "Bye Bye Birdie," only my question isn't "What's the matter with kids today?" but rather "What's the matter with doctors today?"

I've already accepted that they're younger than me (so is our new president). A lot younger. But that's not the issue.

And I certainly recognize that there was something wrong with the pompous, all-knowing, authoritarian figure from our past. Patients should be treated as individuals, should be well and clearly informed and should participate (within reason) in the diagnosis and treatment plan. That's not necessarily what's happening. But that's not even my gripe – today.

I was surprised when the podiatrist entered the room wearing her flip-flops and cracking her gum.

What bothers me about the physicians I've encountered recently is their casualness – in dress, in manner, in attitude. I mean, this is life and death we're dealing with!

And although my daughter's in-grown toenail didn't exactly fit that category, I was still surprised when the podiatrist entered the room wearing her flip-flops and cracking her gum. Call me old-fashioned but it just didn't jive with my image of "professional."

Recently I had a child confronting a more serious issue – not life and death but possibly surgery. Again the emergency room doctor seemed to be from a new era. While asking my son questions and during examination, he used the most slang and vulgar terms for different body parts and functions, words I don't allow my children to say. Call me an old fogy but I found it inappropriate and embarrassing.

We spent a long time in the ER treatment area so I was able to observe a lot of behavior (much more than I desired). As my child lay in pain, waiting for a diagnosis or the paper work for yet another test, the staff in the nurses' area was busy telling jokes and making personal phone calls.

I don't mean to suggest that nurses have to maintain a gruff and grim exterior, only that they were perhaps a little too cavalier. This was the emergency room – where people come in desperation (if they don't feel desperate when they come in, they do by the time they finally leave!) – and the lightness of their tone along with the slowness of their pace seemed out of place.

A further aspect of this casual attitude (at least at the HMO we belong to) is the lack of emphasis on privacy through the facility. Patients are seated next to one another as their vital signs are recorded, with the nurses loudly shouting out the patient's weight to make sure she records it correctly. (There isn't a woman I know who doesn't find that unbearable!) But it's more. Questions about symptoms, the reasons for the visit, and other personal details are asked at the nurses' station within hearing of the other nurses, some of the other patients, and not infrequently, everyone in the waiting room. That's too casual for me.

On the radio these days, there seem to be ads for every type of product designed to cure every type of ailment. The ads are frequently explicit and uncomfortable to listen to. I feel frustrated that I've been subjected to it (do we have to give up the radio too?); I find it invasive. I don't know who or what's to blame – is popular culture influencing society or reflective of society? – but it seems to me that casual has gone too far, that it's come to be synonymous with a lack of modesty – in every area.

Presumably my doctors are capable of tremendous amounts of discipline. It takes will and self-determination to persevere through medical school and internships and residencies. It takes a lot of self-control. I'd just like to see some of them exercise it in their daily interactions. It would be more pleasant for the old codgers like me – and wouldn't be bad for the young whippersnappers either.

March 28, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 25

(25) Avigail, November 12, 2017 12:27 PM

More Indicative of Where You Are Getting Care

My husband, children and I have never had this experience. Sure we have had doctors and nurses who are chatting to the side or make some unusual comments, but not in a way that crosses any professional boundaries. I'm very selective who we see and our hospital is top notch. We have only had the best of experiences. THOUGH I have had this complaint about front desk staff at all these locations. They are very unprofessional, even at the best of offices. They chat about their personal lives while we are in waiting room listening. Sometimes in gross detail. They are loud, obnoxious, sometimes rude. They seem inconvenienced by our existence and annoyed by any small request. And the music they play is atrocious! Rap or techno or pop music? Doesnt belong at the doctors office! I'm shocked the doctors let their staff do this. Totally out of place.

(24) Liya, March 17, 2014 1:02 AM

I agree..

I am a physician and I do cringe on occasion to see how some of my coworkers dress or in what state of undress they are. Some people wear stiletto's and tight pants and have push up bra's with cleavage showing. That may be ok for an office practice but not for a psychiatric hospital. I wear scrubs and try to wear a bra that hides my attributes closer to my waist,,,hehe. Thank you for your article.

(23) Linda, May 16, 2009 5:55 PM

we who still have manners

are the ones to keep carrying it on, everywhere you go or look, the talk, the action is one of carelessness, and indifference to how it will effect other people. I talked to my son and grandkids on facebook about their swearing, on it, and told them it was like throwing up on someone. and it just showed their stupidity. Manners are always welcome, and so is putting forth a good impression, If they are not serious about their services, I'm not going to be serious about giving them any business either.

(22) Susan, April 14, 2009 10:12 AM

dress code

My daughters Gross Anatomy instructor in Indiana puts a kabash on inappropriate dressing in his lab. Even though they are wearing lab coats, it still sets the tone and is disrespectful to the donors, their families the other students and professors, a little respect goes a long way. Maybe Dr. Flip flop had an ingrown toenail herself and had to wear them but the gum thing? I hope it was Nicorette? ,)

(21) Anonymous, April 13, 2009 3:28 PM

I agree

The biggest joke is that we have HIPA yet at the pediatric dentist (that I left after 1 visit),there are only dividers between the patients. Maybe it's to give the place an open, airy, less "scary" feel or maybe that it's easier for the staff. Whatever the case is, the nurse asks questions from a detailed health history questionaire that anybody in the room can hear especially when they are sitting 2 feet away, theoretically in the next "cubicle". The place was so "professionally" child oriented and the nurse had such an attitude (the dentist was nice though) that my son freaked out and we mutually decided to go elsewhere.

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