Article Date: 5/1/2005

reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Share Your Feelings
Seize opportunities to let your patients know that you appreciate them.
TIMOTHY F. MADGAR, O.D., PARKVILLE, MD.

Recently, while reading the obituary section in my local newspaper, I came across the name of a former patient. His passing brought back some insights that had first surfaced when this gentleman moved out of my area.


PHOTO BY TAMARA REYNOLDS

An unlikely friendship

Mr. Jones was a pleasant gentleman whom I had seen as a patient for the greater part of 15 years. He had presented to my office for my services because his lady friend had been a patient of my practice for years. I had no occasion to see him other than for routine care.

We had nothing in common: He grew up in the country, I grew up in the city; I didn't hunt or fish for for my hobbies, as he did, and he didn't play golf. But we still had conversations about the state of the environment where he had spent a great deal of his life, or other topics. I did nothing heroic for this man's visual care other than getting him to see the best he could.

A few years ago, Mr. Jones's lady friend passed away and, having no reason to remain in the big city, he returned to his home turf near Maryland's Eastern Shore area. Before he left, I recommended that Mr. Jones see an esteemed colleague of mine for his continued care. I also invited him to stop in and say "hello" whenever he was on this side of the Chesapeake Bay.

We get attached

I've been in practice for more than 20 years. Many patients have shared their lives with me, as I have with them. I know about their kids and grandkids, about their vacations in Florida and the rewards and successes, as well as the trials, that everyday life throws at them. They ask about my life and about my family. Too often, the first time we learn of a long-time patient's passing is when reading the obituary section, or when a relative telephones the office after receiving one of our recall notices.

But it was different with Mr. Jones. Two years previously, when I knew that this would be the last time I would see him as a patient, and also knowing that in all likelihood, it was the last time I would ever see him again at all, I found myself choking back emotion as I thanked him for being such a loyal patient over the years.

Seize the moment

Too often we feel that we are not having an impact, that the routine things that we do are just that -- routine. Even though patients may not always verbally thank us for our services, their return to us for care acknowledges their trust. This bond was apparent four years ago when my father passed away. Patients visited my family at the viewing to pay their respects to my father, whom they did not know, as a way to show their concern for me.

As our practices age, we'll find ourselves in this situation more often. We should never miss the chance to thank those loyal patients for all of their years of confidence in our services. I also have visited funeral homes more often to pay my respects to long-time patients and their families, and by then we have missed the chance to thank them. Let these good people know how much you appreciate them while they can still hear it from you.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2005