Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Do you tell people you are a doctor?

An interesting post appeared on the physician website Sermo the other day.

A woman said that she hides the fact that she is a doctor for fear of being overcharged for goods and services and that she hates being asked medical questions in social situations. Read the entire post plus comments here. [Free registration required.]

Over 100 comments were received and at least 95% concurred with the idea that one should not reveal that one is a doctor even if directly asked what one does for a living. Some of the comments echoed the post and others brought up issues such as the feeling that doctors are no longer liked or respected.

How far we have fallen.

It is a shame that most MDs don't want to admit what they do. But I do the same thing. I do not tell trades people or car salesmen what I do. I keep a low profile when meeting new people. When I am forced to reveal this dark secret, I hate having to explain what a general surgeon does. Yes, it’s a specialty. I take out appendices, gallbladders and most of whatever else ails you. Try explaining what a surgical hospitalist does.

I also don’t like to be presented with acquaintances’ symptoms and asked to give advice. And I don’t have a CT scanner in my house or car so how can I possibly make an accurate diagnosis? [Joke]

I especially hate it when someone tells me that they are all set to have a procedure done by Dr. Stonehands and what do I think? It is a “no win” situation. If I tell you the guy is no good, then you might tell him I said so. If I don’t and you have a complication, I’ll feel bad. How about asking me for advice before you are already scheduled? But better yet—don’t ask me at all.

The Sermo sample of 100 is obviously not definitive. I wonder how most doctors feel about this issue.

17 comments:

Ken & Carol said...

I say I used to work in a hospital laboratory and that I graduated from a school in Boston.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I used to say I was a plumber. Still had people ask for advice. Had to change it to "a shepherd."

Chris Porter MD said...

During residency I ducked the question because I didn't feel like a doctor. Once done I began to take pride in my new persona.

I tell anyone who asks I'm a surgeon, skipping *doctor* entirely and avoiding the excruciating *I'm a physician*. That *general surgeon* disappoints, compared to plastic or ortho, smarts a little. But I rarely try to make a teaching moment.

I love giving advice to family, friends, acquaintances and total strangers. I equally dig attending emergencies on airplanes and sidewalks. I once attempted to resuscitate a patient in a boat tied to a tree in rapids. http://porteronsurg.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-was-driving-cross-country-to.html

Surgery is fun; so is being a surgeon.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

@Chris

It's nice to see someone who has not descended into the abyss of cynicism. I hope you can sustain it.

plumtree said...

My dad is a dentist. He is from a blue-collar background and therefore does not like drawing attention to his 'professional' status--it doesn't have quite so much to do with the reactions of others. He usually tells people that he is self-employed, and if pressed, the suburb that he works in. It takes at least three tries to get the word 'dentist' out.
He does not worry about being asked for advice. People would rather get dental advice from whoever is sitting next to them on the bus.

Anonymous said...

I'm an orthopaedics resident, but I occasionally say I'm a carpenter. Mostly when I don't want a girl to talk to me only because she thinks doctors are all rich.

//.amanda.eleven. said...

It's interesting that so many physicians hide their profession when medical students are usually so proud to share with strangers that they are a physician-in-training [myself included!]. I guess we'll see what happens in 10 years...

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Great comment by Anonymous. Residents aren't rich but women don't need to know that.

@//.amanda.eleven You make an excellent observation. I didn't think of that but it's very true. Let me know in 10 years.

Eldritch Palmer said...

As an attorney, I am used to snide remarks when people learn of my profession. I would not have expected doctors to suffer such pressure. The medical community helps people get better...it's not like they helped collateralize people's financial lives and then found a way to destroy them one debt-financed transaction after another.

Panic Attacks said...

When formal introductions are made, it is standard to state their title, such as doctor or attorney. During casual occasions, this is not the case.

My brother is an ENT. He generally introduces himself as a doctor and does not mind giving away free advice - except for the fact that more often than not, the one who gets it for free doesn't listen.

Interesting blog. Keep up the great work!

Skeptical Scalpel said...

@Eldritch-very pertinent comment.

@Panic-thanks for the kind words.

drbculp said...

Wow. I thought I was the only one. :) I don't admit to it most times and most of my friends in residency and I have come with alter-egos on more than one occasion. I think part of this is due to females in surgery, and heaven forbid I say it, traditional gender roles. I think it's hard for us to admit that we have a rather well-respected, intense job that took at least some amount of intelligence to obtain...it's not just about pricey things, its about relating to others.

Dr Nikola said...

Popular view on my job is so distant from reality that I really feel ashamed to hear all those misconceptions. I used to be really proud of my job as a fresh resident and was willing to share it with practically anyone only to find out that a positive feedback is based on misperception of what I do while negative is unpleasent enough to be avoided. Now as more or less independent registrar I still feel proud but with a little more of experience I don't feel the urge to share it with anyone anymore. If asked for advice I do tell (which is almost true) that as I'm most of my time involved in acute care I really cant recommend my services as nobody sane would like to get into situation I can be helpful which usually does the trick. Good post, thank you.

Huhet said...

Does it change if you're in private practice and need to promote yourself for networking or practice building?

Or are the social situations discussed here not necessarily the type that you'd use for professional networking?

Or are we always networking, regardless of intent?

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I have found that the type of networking you describe does not really occur in social situations. People who ask for advice at a party are unlikely to show up in your office.

Anonymous said...

I say I work in a doctor's office and because I'm a woman, folks think I'm the receptionist. I got tired of being asked for free advice and very tired of folks complaining about poor doctors, bad medical advice, and awful hospital experiences

Skeptical Scalpel said...

That's a good strategy. Unfortunately, it doesn't work so well for men.

Post a Comment