Monday, 23 September 2013


1. come into forcible contact with another object.
"the shell impacted twenty yards away" synonyms: crash into, smash into, collide with, hit, strike, ram, smack into, bang into, slam into
2. have a strong effect on someone or something.
"high interest rates have impacted on retail spending" synonyms: affect, influence, have an effect on, make an impression on

For once, the title of this post doesn't refer to a car driven by a drunk idiot impacting a tree.  No, this has to do with the second definition - having a strong effect.  Some studies have shown that at least half of doctors suffer from a feeling of a low sense of accomplishment and emotional exhaustion, otherwise known as burnout.  I am firmly convinced that if more patients were more forthcoming with appreciation for what their doctors do, these feelings would vanish instantly.

Take for example Brittany (not her real name).  She emailed me recently with this story:

Hi Doc, my name is Brittany (not my real name) and I'm writing to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and to tell you how great it is that you care about your patients.  I read a recent entry of yours about patients being not so grateful for being saved.  It just made me think about how I wish I could thank my doctor, who didn't save my physical life, but saved my dream. I was born with a rare eye disorder called Ectopia Lentis, which effected both of my eyes.  I was legally blind and was told I would never drive and would need assistance in school.  I adapted and developed a very good verbal memory and never needed help in school, but I still couldn't do a lot of things I wanted to do.  I live in {redacted} and jobs and public transportation are very few and far between, so I was really worried about what I would be able to do.  When I was 18, I was given information about a case study by an ophthalmologist in another part of the country.  I had surgery to replace my lenses as well as the insertion of rings that would hold the new lenses in place.  My vision is incredible compared to what it was.  I'm now 27, have finished college and graduate school and I have the job I was meant to do.  I'm a school psychologist, which requires me to drive all over my area between the 28 schools that I serve.  After my surgeries, I saw a local doctor for follow up care because the surgeon was out of the area.  He has since moved even further away and I haven't been able to contact him to tell him how much he has truly changed my life and how thankful I really am.  I am now trying to start the process of having my young daughter checked for this disorder, as it is genetic.  I just hope that you know how much you change lives and how many people those people have an impact on.

Brittany {still not her real name}

In case there are any doctors out there reading this (I know there is one, but he's retired and already knows very well how much his patients appreciated and adored him), you should be aware that there are patients like this out there.  And for everyone else, please let your doctor know of your appreciation.  Saying thanks is very nice, but writing your doctor a little thank you note is 10 times better.  But if your really want to say thanks, write a letter to your doctor's hospital administration.  We always get copies of them, and it warms our hearts more than you could possibly imagine.  It reaffirms our faith that we made the right choice going into this profession.


  1. My mom just spent 11 weeks in the hospital. And then time in a skilled nursing facility. And we aren't done. My mom has, despite the odds against her, been able to thank every doctor who saw her. The looks on their faces when she walks in to their office is amazing! We had a rough time and we still have 2 more surgeries to go, but we have made sure that every doctor, nurse, tech, knows that we appreciate them.

  2. I was wondering what is the best way to thank my consultant as a student. I started bringing chocolate in the last day of each rotation. Am not sure how they will react to a thank you letter. I am worry some will be there for my OSCE in few months.

    1. Write the thank you. When I was a student teacher I wrote a thank you note to each staff member at the school (8 teachers, principal, secretary, & janitor) even though I knew several would be on the hiring board at the end of the year & would be interviewing me. You know what? It never hurts to thank someone in writing! 5 years later & many of the teachers still talk about how I did that! (I also made homemade treats for everyone.)

  3. I really love your blog. As a doc myself (and I hope you don't regard me as the enemy, I'm your friendly neighborhooud anaesthesiologist) I usually shy away from medical blogs because I find them trite and self-indulgent (we recently had to discipline a visiting trauma surgery registrar for posting hero stories and pictures of patients without their consent online!)

    Since I'm a gas monkey my patients rarely remember me, but you're so right about how amazing a thank-you from a patient is. I'm so against the old-fashioned culture of misery medicine (a la Grey's Anatomy) -- if only more docs could take themselves less seriously -- I had a brilliant professor when I was a registrar who treated his underlings like actual human beings and actually THANKED us for our hard work. Surprise, surprise, would you believe that we worked harder for him. And I'm pleased to say I'm paying it forward. I rarely write medical stuff in my own blog, but this is a topic I need to flesh out on... anyway thanks for the great writing!

  4. I have endometriosis and I've had three surgeries for it. I also got diagnosed at age 12 which is a hard age to start seeing a gynecologist and know there is something wrong with your lady parts. My doc has always done my surgeries and is always all-around amazing with options, and information, and making sure I'm comfortable and not freaking out. She's also spontaneously called me (once from home) just because she thought of me and wanted to know how I was feeling. I've written her notes/thank-yous and I always bring her favorite candy bar and soda when I see her. And I've referred two people with endo to her (and several other women, but I know two that for sure took my advice and loved her), one who is the same age I was when I got diagnosed, which I also think is one of the highest compliments I can give. I also have a great neurologist. I should write him a note/letter, because he has been treating my narcolepsy and migraines for about five years now and I don't know if thanking him in person is enough for all he's done for me.

  5. 8 years ago my Mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. We were referred to an Oncology practice that was truly incredible. After every round of Chemo she'd become so sick she'd be hospitalized.

    Sadly she passed away at the hospital. We are truly Blessed with a great hospital system in our area. Everyone from Doctor's, their staff, hospital, and their staff couldn't have been kinder, nor more comforting to us.

    After her passing I was thinking of a way to say "Thank you" but there really is no way to thank them enough.

    I sent a letter to the C.E.O. of the hospital along with gift cards for each shift, hoping they'd use them for meals one day, or towards their Christmas party, whatever they cared to do

  6. with them. I did the same for the Doctor's and their staff.

    I received the kindest letter back from the C.E.O. giving me his personal cell phone number in case we were ever in need of anything.

    Thank you goes a long way.

    Forgive any of my writing I had a T.B.I. some years back and my writing skill are horrid.

    P.S. I should have mentioned I did it for the Oncology Unit, and E.R.

  7. My neurologist's assistant was super critical in helping me get the pain medication that I needed when my rheumatologist (who I am no longer seeing due to various issues and unprofessionalism) totally dropped the ball and screwed me over. I deal with intractable pain, and require consistent pain medication to keep me even minimally functional. Anyway, I sent the neuro's assistant a thank you card, praising her for going above and beyond her duties and telling her how much I appreciated all of her help and what a difference it made to me. I didn't really think anything of it, because expressing gratitude is just what you DO when someone helps you, right? Well, after reading your thoughts on the matter, her reaction makes more sense now. She thanked me profusely for the card at my next appointment, but I was surprised she had even remembered. I thanked her then, too.

    The pain specialist that I'm seeing now is one of the first to take my intractable pain seriously, and he is doing a tremendous job of helping me. My mom asked for his address during a recent phone conversation of ours so that SHE can send him a thank you note for helping her daughter so much, even though she lives entirely across the country and will never meet this man. She's just so tired of seeing me suffer needlessly and intensely that her gratitude is swift and overwhelming toward anyone that can and has helped me.


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