Apr 26, 2010

Delayed Gratitude

Lots of people thank their doctor, but if you are reading this series chances are you're aiming to up your game and make your gratitude stand out from the rest.
So Doctor D is going to let you in on a little secret for how to thank your way into a doctor's heart:

The biggest factor in gratitude magnitude has nothing to do with the thoughtfulness of a gift or the wording of a note.

The most important factor for impact of a "Thank You" is how much time has passed.
Everybody says thank you right after a doctor does something for them. It is the socially appropriate way to end an interaction. We even thank people that we really don't like just because it is a social norm. While there isn't anything wrong with ending a visit with a heartfelt "Thank You," it won't really stand out in a doctor's mind.

...but thanking a doc the next time you see them shows it mattered to you enough to bring it back up. When this happens Doctor D thinks "Wow, that is so nice of them to remember that from the last time I saw them!" This just makes doctors feel good.

But the real grand slam of gratitude is to express thanks many months or even years after a doc did something good for you. Most patients never do this, even if the doc totally saved their life. It's just human nature—we get caught up in the stresses of life and forget.

When out of the blue a patient writes a note or says at a visit, "Hey Doc, remember when you did this for me? I just wanted to thank you and let you know that it meant a lot to me," that patient instantly becomes Doctor D's favorite. (Extra points are awarded if the doc doesn't even recall the good thing they did for you! Your remembering guarantees your doctor will never forget you or anything about you again.)
It's just human nature, we all feel appreciated when people bring up our good qualities we've displayed in the past.
As an extra bonus Doctor D will point out that delayed gratitude works with everyone in your life—not just doctors. So go out and thank some people for things they did for you long ago! You'll suddenly become the most popular person around.

Doctor D would love to hear your stories about how you surprised someone with a delayed thanks, but he's a bit bummed that his patients aren't half as cool in how they thank MDs as the readers of this blog.

Okay, enough of a pity party. Doctor D really needs to go out and thank all the people that did cool things for him years ago!


Anonymous said...

You have no idea how much this post relieves my guilt over sometimes waiting a long time, perhaps until a one-year anniversary date, to send a thank you to a doctor. I guess I'm just slow at putting together my thoughts, and also I like sending a thank you on an anniversary. And sometimes I want to wait until I've fully recovered from the surgery or until the treatment has taken effect or whatever so that I can express gratitude for the results of their work. In the meantime, I never forget what my doctors have done for me. This probably sounds terribly sentimental, but I keep photos of several of them at my desk and on my iPod and wish them well in my heart every day.

Josiah O. Morris said...

Loving the series, Dr. D... thank you!

My family practice doctor is a great man who works long, hard hours throughout the week and then donates his services on Saturdays to a free clinic of sorts. He's been really helpful and encouraging as I make my way towards applying to med school, and I know it'd do his heart some good if I got in (mine, too). Making observations in his practice has even led me consider a career as a family practice doc just like him...it's got a certain appeal! That's something that I'm not going to tell him until after I've made that decision (if I go that route). I can only imagine his face. He'd probably give me a hard time, asking why I didn't go into orthopedics instead =P

Anyway, this series has been really helpful and informative so far. Can't wait to read the next couple of entries!

Celeste said...

I made mine a beaded, quilted wallhanging as thanks for all he does for patients with the rare problem I was dealing with. I found out he has made retirement plans, so I have begun a king size quilt for him. I had to spill the beans in order to find out what size to make it, but I am keeping the process secret for a big reveal. Wish me luck!

Anonymous said...

I've done this once. There is a old, gruff and grizzled old doctor in our rural ER here. I took my son, not yet old enough for kindergarten to the ER one night. He had a paronychia and his pediatrition was unavailable. Dr. Gruff walks into the room, looks at the finger, and started talking to my son as if he were a strong young man, and yet was very firm with him that he continue to settle down. (meanwhile the maternal nurses are telling my little boy that they are going to wrap him up like a glow worm, so that they can restrain him better.
As I stood by the bedside assisting the nurses restraining my child, he worked quickly and efficiently. I swear that all he was seeing was a finger.
And as soon as he was done, he complimented my boy for being such a brave young man, assured him that his finger was only numb and would get better soon, and showered him with stickers. My kid walked out of the ER grinning and strutting, lol. He enjoyed telling his war story for quite a while after that.

Two years later I was in nursing clinical and was getting lunch in the cafeteria when I looked up and saw Dr Gruff. He was visably older and less steady handed. I walked over to him immediately and thanked him for treating my son.

And I swear, I think I saw a little smile in the corner of old Dr. Gruff's mouth.

Anonymous said...

I recently gave an obgyn doctor who diagnosed my ruptured ectopic pregnancy a gift card to a restaurant at a mall and took the office staff Gerber Daisies and muffins. I really wanted to thank them because after suffering in severe pain for several days, I was not my cooperatve normal self by the time I was seen in their office. I'm 43 with two children, and was shocked to first find out at a satellite office that I was pregnant. Then I was upset because I thought I was having a miscarriage. After driving an hour and waiting for to in the office, a nurse who performed my ultrasound ran out of the room. when she returned, she told me that the octor, someone I had never met, called an ambulance to take me to the hospital for surgery because I had a ruptured ectopic pregancy and was bleeding internally. By this time, I felt lightheaded, confused, and scared, but I did not want to take the ambulance. In the end, the doctor firmly explained that it was life-threatening. I don't remember many details, but I do remember openly weeping in front of the staff and other patients. I'm usually a pleasant and cooperative person, but I definitely was not during those last twenty minutes or so in the office, so I wrote the doctor a thank you note and also apologized for being less-than-cooperatve. I just mentioned that I wasn't myself, and although it may have seemed otherwise at the time, I was very thankful that he helped me. I also joked that the note was also self-serving in that I wanted to explain and apologize for my looney behavior. When I told my sister this, she said that they'll put my letter in my file and call me a whacko. I really just wanted to thank him and say I was orry if I was uncooperative. I wasn't my normal self. I took muffins and flowers for the whole office because I know my medical emergency interrupted their day and because everyone was so kind to me even though I was probbly acting like a lunatic. My sister said that I called her from the ambulance, but I don't even remember that. She said I was an inoherent lunatic, o I just wanted to thank them for taking such good care of me and for putting up with me. My sister said it was completely inappropriate to drop off gifts, but I just wanted to be nice and show them my appreciation. Do you think my sister's right?

Doctor D said...

It should be fine to drop off a small gift of little or or no value like a cake or cookies. Your sister is right that any correspondence from you will be kept in your file, but a nice well-written note thanking them for their patience with you during a stressful ordeal is hardly something that would reflect badly on you. I think it would be nice for you to do these things and your doctor would very much appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Last year I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer - a rare and deadly form that is treated differently than "regular" bc. My oncologist was the only one who never mentioned giving up, nor did he treat me like I was a walking dead person. I know that I'm alive today with no evidence of disease because of his skilled, timely, and appropriate treatment. So a few months ago I ran in a Memorial Day race in his honor (he's a veteran). I sent him a thank-you note, my timing tag and back bib from the race, plus the birthday card my children made for me. It cost me about $5 and he loved it. Maybe oncologists have a different sort of relationship with their patients than other providers, I wouldn't know. But I don't think my doc found this creepy or inappropriate. Or at least I hope not.

Anonymous said...

I just wrote 2 doctor thank you letters and my primary nurse thanking them for all they did for me nearly a year ago. When your quality of life improves as much as mine did, it's really the least anyone should do. They were simple hand written (I think that is very important) letters either a paragraph or two long expressing my thanks.
I hemmed and hawed over what to write, probably taking it too serious. I did find that sending the letters gave me alot of spring in my own step knowing I might have made 3 people happier, out of the blue. Thanks for confirming that, Dr. D.!

Donica said...

I've been thinking about the doctor's I had when I was 2 1/2. I had a rare disease that while acts and is treated like cancer, isn't technically cancer. However, my prognosis was nil, and those two doctors (who I still saw for years afterwards) really did save my life back then. I don't think I ever thanked either of them. I was so little, and then later on in childhood there was (luckily) nothing more life threatening. However, it is now nearly 30 years later, but I know both doctors are still practicing, and I've been thinking of somehow telling them thank you, but I doubt I can just walk into their office. Or maybe I could, but that would seem awkward. However, I owe so much to these wonderful men that I want to do something, even if it is SO late.

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