I’m not a short-term relationship kind of gal. Sure, I had my share of disastrous dating experiences in my early 30s when I first dabbled in romance–okay, maybe I started a bit earlier than that–but for the most part, I’m an all-in, stick-with-it, never-say-die kind of gal. In relationships of all kinds. Let’s just say that once we become entangled, I am hard to get rid of.
So you’ll understand that my relationships with physicians are no different. Here, too, I’m in it for the long haul. A poor doctor is saddled with caring for me until retirement or death (the doctor’s, not mine, so far). I did ditch a doctor once but that is a long, unfortunate story for another day. Let’s just say the relationship had been failing for years and, had I had any self-respect, I would have turfed him years earlier. Isn’t that always the way?
As a high-maintenance patient, I log so many years with my physicians that at some point it becomes awkward to call them “Doctor [Last Name]”. Over time, we have developed a certain rapport. I have come to know about their families and children by asking intrusive questions during my appointments when I should really be discussing my own health. I’ve made it clear that I respect my physicians’ expertise, that I visit for guidance, support, and, of course, prescription renewals. We both know that I am and will always be the patient.
No, we haven’t ever hung out over dinner or gone to a movie; that would be grossly inappropriate, don’t you think? But we have spent a heck of a lot of time together, and I believe at some point it’s time to dispense with formalities. And so eventually I ask each doctor if I may call her by her first name. She’s been calling me by my first name for years, which I much prefer, by the way. No Mrs. for me, thanks very much.
Why not just keep calling each physician by her formal title? I could, and I do with doctors I don’t know well, but I’ve learned that using first names helps me cope. It reminds me that over time I have come to trust that physician with my health and with my life. I am always anxious walking into a doctor’s office because I’m always anxious. Calling the doctor by first name reminds me I’m in good hands.
So, dear doctor, when you introduce yourself, please don’t forget to include your first name. Many years later, when I ask if I can call you by this name, at least I’ll know what it is. I’ll practice it when I talk about you over dinner, so it will roll off my tongue when I finally make the request. (You don’t really think I call you “Dr. [Last Name]” when you’re not around, do you?) Thanks for your consideration.