A friend of mine is having surgery soon. Last week she had a meeting with her anesthesiologist to go over the procedure. She said the doctor was friendly, but a little socially awkward and kind of mocked the information he was legally bound to tell her. One such matter regarded the risk of damage to her teeth during the procedure. Perhaps it was to make her feel more at ease, but he said only one of his patients had ever complained, and that it was a man with terrible teeth and horrible breath. He demonstrated this by waving his hands near his mouth to indicate bad breath.
My friend laughed politely, but left feeling a little uncomfortable. It didn’t feel appropriate for a doctor to be joking about a previous patient to her. Would he be gossiping about her later on, too? It felt judgmental and mean-spirited and unprofessional. Worse, it’s put her even more on edge for the procedure.
We all need to let off steam, and perhaps joking about our work with colleagues is part of the job. For a doctor to joke with a patient like that, however, feels inappropriate. It’s rude and not at all helpful.