Q: An interesting concern was raised about courtesy to patients.
Faye, in Hawaii, writes, “I have encountered too many physicians and other health care workers who call me either by my first name or, dear. I also note that men get called, Sir. How can I firmly but politely express how rude this is? Calling me dear is denigrating; at least the men are called, Sir.”
A: Although not my typical question, I found it intriguing. It is not only doctor’s offices where one might get called dearie, dear, sweetie, honey, or any number of inappropriate recognitions.
As for getting called by a first name, that can be defended. At the health
department we would never identify a client by his last name for purposes of
confidentiality. Calling a patient by a number proved too impersonal so we used first names. For similar reasons, one might be called by their first name in a doctor’s office.
Endearments as mentioned by Faye are inappropriate. Many people find such addresses demeaning and insulting. How would one deal with this? I would just tell the nurse or office worker that you do not appreciate being called in such a manner and indicate how you would like to be called.
I have done this in restaurants where after the third “dear” or “honey”, it was either correct the waitress or throw my food plate at her. I say her, as I have
never experienced a male waiter use those terms. I would not recommend sarcasm or throwing a magazine at the clinic employee.
Clinic staff should periodically meet to discuss proper office and phone courtesy. Providing satisfaction surveys to patients will expose these irritants.
Have a question for Dr. Yacht? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.