Article Date: 3/1/2013

Street Smarts
Street Smarts

Is Your Ego an Issue?


By Dan Beck, OD Leland, N.C.

DURING A TYPICAL day in the exam lanes, we hear all sorts of patient questions and comments. I’m referring to things that have no clinical significance, but still nag at our professional egos.

Psychology plays a large part in patient care. How we analyze and interpret the mental make-up of the person in the exam chair greatly influences our success as healthcare providers. Yet ego can get in the way of good instincts.

What follows is a quick test to measure your Exam Lane Ego Score or ELES.

QUESTION 1: Your patient tells you his father had cataracts removed with a laser 10 years ago. Do you:

A) Explain to the patient that lasers aren’t used to remove cataracts

B) Casually say that other methods are typically used to remove cataracts

C) Nod and tell the patient cataract surgery has come a long way

QUESTION 2: Your patient says she can no longer see with her glasses and that “the MEDICINE has run out of them.” Do you:

A) Explain how optics and refraction work and that there is no medicine on her eyeglasses

B) Say you’ll make sure the right amount of medicine is in her new glasses

C) Assure her you’ll make her see as well as possible with her new glasses

QUESTION 3: A 70-year-old Medicare patient says he “doesn’t want the government to start running his healthcare.” Do you:

A) Explain that Medicare IS a government-run program

B) Tell him you’d be happy to keep government out of his healthcare and you’ll charge him today instead of filing a claim with Medicare

C) Tell him you’ll take good care of him

QUESTION 4: On slit lamp exam, you observe some small congenital cataracts on a 10-year-old patient. Her mother is in the exam room with you Do you:

A) Tell them both she has congenital cataracts but they won’t change or affect her vision

B) Don’t even mention the cataracts and feel it’s a waste of time to try and explain it

C) Casually state the patient has a tiny snowflake spot on her lens that she was born with and it will not change or affect her vision

Add up your score. "A" responses receive 1 point, "B" responses receive 3 points and "C" responses receive 5 points.

Score of 4-6: Your ego is getting in the way
Score of 7-12: Not bad, but you’re turning some patients off
Score of 13-20: You checked your ego at the exam room door

We want to educate our patients the best we can, but sometimes that can backfire. The ability to let insignificant issues go can be a lot tougher than anticipated, especially with very opinionated patients. Try to remember what’s really important. Although we’re all guilty of it, try not allowing your ego to ruin an otherwise pleasant patient experience .

Checking his ego at the exam room door, Dr. Beck is a 1993 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Volume: , Issue: March 2013, page(s):