Any small town GPs out there? How do you respond when you see a patient down the street? Do you a) try to hide or pretend you didn’t see them, b) smile and rush past like you’ve got somewhere to be, or c) greet them warmly and ask how they are, or d) ask them to dance. In the supermarket.
I used to pick option A, but the new and improved Dr DeLoony is a B. Unless they are someone I am better off avoiding, I would rather risk them being a little embarrassed by seeing me than thinking I don’t care about them or that I’m rude. Conversely, if I see my doctor/s down the street, I pretend I didn’t see them to spare them this dilemma!
It gets trickier if the patient saw you about a sensitive issue such as a sexual health or mental health matter. I have been on the point of a smile and hello only to have a rapidly receding patient flee across the market place, evidently fearful I might start loudly discussing their genital herpes.
The opposite is more disconcerting- when someone sees me out in public and loudly asks ‘so what was the result of that blood test?’ or ‘did you do that Viagra script for me yet?’ I get a little rattled.
Not only can’t I remember every detail of every patient I’ve ever seen (this is a surprise to some people, bless them for thinking I’m superhuman), but I wonder at their lack of embarrassment (and propriety).
I live in a big regional town, but run into people everywhere. The same group of people seem to attend all the same things I do… Perhaps I should become more unpredictable.
I think back to what it would have been like for Dr Mum, in the tiny town where I grew up. I remember it had to be a super, super hot day for her ever to consider going to the pool with us. She and my dad would do our grocery shopping at 7am on a Saturday morning. I think this was at least in part to avoid being asked for medical advice at inappropriate moments but also to preserve a modicum of personal freedom and privacy.
So how do y’all deal with being a Doc about town?