Can I be Friends with my Patients?
I am putting this out there. Not only to fellow residents, physicians and medical students, but to the public at large. Is it possible to be friends with your patients?
It has happened a few times in the year I've been working in this community that I've just really hit it off with a patient. They're always my prenatal patients-- they're female, close to my age, and in many cases just damn cool people. I meet with them monthly during their early pregnancy, then every two weeks, then every week... you get to know a person pretty well when you spend that much time with them. Then, at the end of it all, I get to play a key role in one of the most important events in their lives. They like me. I like them. Often, I like their husbands too. And I'll find myself thinking of how much fun it would be for my husband and I to hang out with them. Last week, one of my prenatal patients who is nearing the end of her pregnancy joked that she'd buy me a beer when all this was over if I could get her through the birth without tearing. Meant as a joke, I know. But when you think about it, would it really be wrong? On one hand, I know things about my patients that I don't know about my friends (for example, I've never seen Vitamin K's va-jay-jay, even through she's been my best friend for years... and we like it that way). On the other, it's not like I'm thinking about people's embarrassing medical issues when I bump into them on the street.
My preceptor has some overlap between his friends and his patients. They were all friends first, though, if that makes a difference. Which I don't entirely understand. There is no way in hell I'd go to a friend to have my paps done, no matter how professional he or she was about it. In fact, Dr. Boss has even delivered the babies of his friends and coworkers. Again, too much information. But they have no problem with it.
Sigh. Can't wait to do emergency medicine full-time. This isn't an issue when you don't get to know your patients.