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Dear Amy: I am a happily married 54-year-old woman. I have a great primary care provider.
“Rebecca” is a nurse practitioner in a large practice. I’ve been going with her for about four years. Rebecca is personable, interesting, genuine and has an easy and fun sense of humor. He asks me about my family, vacations, etc. and seems like a good person.
From day one, I leave every doctor’s appointment wanting to be her friend. We seem to have a compatible energy and kind of ‘click’. At my most recent appointment, she greeted me with a huge smile and very enthusiastically, “I’m SO glad you can finally have this surgery! I’m so happy for you!”
I have no idea if this is just his typical “night way” but it got me pretty excited. I have a good group of female friends and I deeply value friendship as one of the great joys in life. If Rebecca wasn’t my doctor, I’d ask her out for coffee and be open to making a new friend or not.
But given the limits of this relationship, is there any way to find out if we could be friends, or if this is the case with all of his patients? And ethically, CAN a doctor and a patient become friends?
If so, it would be worth switching to a different provider in practice, but I don’t want to make that switch for nothing.
Marked: The most “appropriate” and ethical position is for everyone to stay in their boxes; “Rebecca” continues to be your excellent and humane health care provider, and you continue to be her grateful patient.
The warm personal relationship you share enhances your medical care: you feel comfortable and communicate well: she obviously listens, remembers details about your life, and cares about you.
Despite the standard of maintaining boundaries, practitioners and patients step out of these boxes because they are human beings and sometimes they just click. The OB who delivers the premature baby becomes a family friend; the oncology nurse administering chemotherapy connects with a survivor.
Making a friendship offer with your health care provider is a bit risky because doing so could change the dynamic between you. If you want to take a stab at friendship outside the office, don’t ask him out for coffee (that’s a little too intimate). Contact her by email (not through the patient portal) and invite her to a group event with other friends: a fundraiser, walk, or performance.
He can then accept or censor himself based on his own comfort level, and your professional relationship will be preserved.
Dear Amy: My mother-in-law and I have not always seen eye-to-eye, but we are cordial and we love each other. As the grandkids have gotten older and there is less reason to communicate, I find that I don’t know when or if to call her.
When I’ve called in the past to chat, he seems happy to talk to me, but never calls me back. I think I should assume that if he ever calls me, he must not want to talk to me. In fact, once when I was going through a rough time, she told me I didn’t “need” to call her.
However, she lives alone and is getting older, and every now and then I wonder how she is doing. I remind my husband to call every now and then, and he does.
We see her in person once every month or two, and she has other family and friends who live closer and see her more often.
Calls: I think those calls you make are important, even if you always initiate them. As you get older, they will be vital ways to check in.
Your mother-in-law may be shy or a little intimidated. Some people have a real aversion to making phone calls – it’s a kind of inertia that can be hard to overcome. From what you write, it doesn’t seem like his son is saying either. Keep up the good work; is the right one
Dear Amy: “Concerned in Suburban Chicagoland” wrote that her 13-year-old daughter burst out laughing and ran out of the room when these parents told her they were getting a divorce.
I thought I was the only teenager who laughed at the worst possible time. When my parents dramatically told me that my grandmother died, I burst out laughing.
It wasn’t long before I realized that this strange response was mainly because I was overwhelmed. I still miss Nana.
Missing: Laughing in response to loss seems strange, but it happens.
©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency
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