The Patient is the Boss

        Ms. Pamela Villas made a nice comment a couple posts back that set me to thinking about an encounter with one of my patients years ago.

        One Monday we had a barn burner.  By lunch I was worn out.  Tired, hungry, borderline frazzled, I was trying to get to the finish line- lunch.  My last patient was complicated.  Hypertension, mild renal failure, diabetes; he had multiple problems.  I did my best to tend to him, but my mind wandered.

          After lunch, I felt better.  I got out my office mandolin and strummed a few tunes.  I caught up on my dictation.  By 1:30  I was about set to regroup for the afternoon.

        Paig beeped me.  “Wasn’t Mr. Williams here this morning?”

        “Yes ma’am. ”

        “He’s on line one- says he forgot to ask you something.”


       “Dr. Bibey?”


        ” This is Williams.  I need to talk to you.”

        “Yes sir, what’s up?

        “When I was in there this morning, I felt like you were distracted.   I know you have a lot coming at you, but when you’re in that room, I want your undivided attention.  When we’re in there I’m your boss.”

        I thought about that.  Mr Williams was retired.  He had been a mid level manager in industry, so he knew what it meant to be a boss, but he know all about having a boss too.

        “How far do you live from the office?”

        “Five minutes.”

        “Tell you what.  I was tired.  I should have paid more attention to you.  Why don’t you come over right now and come back to my study?  I’ll tend to whatever we didn’t get to.”

        He seemed surprised.  “Well O.K. Bibey.  I’ll be right there. ”

        We went over a few nuances about his blood pressure medication and decided to make a small change.

       “Thanks, Doc.  How much do I owe you?”

        “Not a thing.  The government won’t allow two visits in one day, man.  I could get in trouble.  The buck really stops with that crowd.”

        “Ain’t it the truth?  I dealt with all those bureaucrats for years.”

        Ten years have gone by.  Every time I see Mr. Williams I pull up a chair, sit down, and say, “O.K, boss.  What can I do for you today?”

        He always breaks into a broad grin.  We get along famously.   He, like Ms. Villars, understood a very important concept- the patient is the bottom line.  And he was kind enough not to chew me out or correct me in front of everyone.  As far as I know he never even mentioned it to the staff.

        Mr. Williams is a very wise man.  He has even taken a liking to bluegrass music.  He’s just the kind of boss every employee hopes to draw.

Dr. B

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10 Comments on “The Patient is the Boss”

  1. pandemonic Says:

    What a wonderful story! I wish all doctors felt the same. Heck, I wish all business people felt the same.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    It is strange how some people just can’t get it in their head to be respectful, huh?

    I can tell from your writing it comes natural to you, and that you also pull your hair out when folks don’t treat people that way.

    Dr. B

  3. Cindy Carter Says:

    I know you were raised well. Not only in the home but by your mentors through Med school. We all need to be reminded now and again about who the “boss” is and how to respect him/her.

    My mother-in-law has a problem with me saying maam to her. And, she absolutely hates it when I say Miss Betty. But, that was the way I was raised. It is agains my nature not to add words or respect.

  4. That’s incredible. What a man – he’s quite right of course. My father had terminal cancer, and so I got to know a lot of doctors during his months in and out of hospitals. There were some who were there for us, really there for us – those were the ones who acted as you realized you should, going that small extra mile for the patient that means so much. Then there are the doctors who truly don’t seem to care very much, and won’t say a word more to you than they absolutely have to. Those are the ones I hated.
    I think you’re very wise yourself, Dr. Bibey, for listening to that man’s criticism.

  5. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    I have a good friend from up North who I always call ‘sir.’

    When he says, “You don’t have to call me sir,” I say, “Yes Sir.” Can’t help it.

    We were both raised the same, huh?

    Dr. B

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms slightly,

    You know, I too have found most of the Docs are great. It’s the few who act so bad that mess up the whole system.

    Did y’all have a Hospice in your area?

    Dr. B

  7. Dr. B,

    I don’t know what I said that pronpted this, but it’s a good memory. And somehow, I always feel better when I focus on someone else. So two people get the healing.


  8. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Villars,

    It was under the Professor Bibey post when you commented patients everywhere saluted me. I found that very touching and it made me think of this patient.

    He tells everyone I am a great Doc. Really I’m never gonna be a great Doc as in one who is gonna discover a cure for cancer. I just try to do the best for my folks I can, but it is humbling to be talked about in such a nice way.

    Dr. B

  9. Dr. B,

    I remember now. Isn’t there some famous saying about “many paths to greatness?”

    “Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder” – that’ll do.


  10. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pamela,

    If old Doc had any greatness at all, it was the stick-to to plod down the tortise path every day.

    Hope you have a fine holiday. I appreciate your contributions to my little corner of the world.

    Dr. B

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