Saturday, September 20, 2008

in sickness and in health

In general I'm a peace-loving sort of woman. Except when sparring at karate. Or when arguing with my husband. Except for those situations, I do try to be accommodating and understanding; I'm happy to 'go with the flow', as they say.

At work I am certainly no tough nut. If a patient tells me they've been sick, even if they appear to be thriving with good health, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, some symptoms aren't readily apparent to the observer. A person may have pain, or nausea, and I have no way of assessing this definitively. Similarly, I try to be generous when a patient has emotional distress and doesn't feel able to attend work. I wouldn't say I'm a pushover, but I'm certainly not hard-line. If a patient is just feeling overwhelmed by life and is completely stressed-out, a day or two off work may prevent them spiralling downwards, and needing several weeks off work. I'm happy to supply a medical cerificate.

I can only recall a few instances in my working career in which I have refused to give a medical certificate. One I clearly recall was when a cheery young man told me he was going fishing the next day, and requested a medical certificate to cover him for the day. I had to try hard not to laugh as I refused this request. (I mean, couldn't he have at least tried to invent a sore throat, a stomach pain, something?!)

Then last week, there was Unhappy Chappie*. Mr UC came to see me with a long list of requests - scripts, referrals, results and the like. I scurried to try to fulfil Mr UC's wishes. After twenty minutes, I had whizzed through it all, and was wrapping up the consultation. He then piped up with one more query:

"Could I have a medical certificate for the next couple of days please?"

"Why? " I queried, concerned (and also imagining further lengthy discussions about this new problem!). "Are you ill?"

"No", Mr UC replied blithely. "It's just that I've taken today off to trim all my hedges right back, and I always get a sore back the next day, so ... I take another day off afterwards."

I blinked. For a minute I was speechless. Then I ventured tentatively, "So, is your back any worse than usual at the moment?"

"No. No, it's fine right now. It's just that I like to get the hedges done in one fell swoop, and the weekends can be busy, so..... you know..... I take the full day, no kids around, get it done." I sat, stunned. "And then I pay for it the next day", he finished.

"Well," I began gently, "I can give you a certificate saying you attended for a doctor's appointment today. But I can't give you a certificate saying you're sick. Because you're not sick in any way."

Mr UC's eyebrows shot up. He glared at me. "But Dr Doodlehead* always used to give me a certificate for this. Every spring!".

I smiled wanly. "Um, well ...... I can't speak for Dr Doodlehead, but ...... it's not legal for me to give you a certificate to trim your hedge. And if your back gets so sore from doing all the hedges in a one day, then .... as harsh as it sounds .... perhaps you shouldn't be doing it all in one go."

Mr UC's eyeballs bulged. He muttered to himself something about 'Dr Doodlehead never had a problem with this'. He seemed to simmer down though, and took his prescriptions, and thanked me as he left. But later that day, the practice manager e-mailed me, saying 'I just had a complaint from a most unreasonable man. See me about this sometime."

Anyone who knows me would know that I am not a person brimming with self-confidence. I have an average amount of confidence, I suppose, but with my work is probably an area where I have the least confidence. I have had patients complain about me a few times in the past, and it has always upset me quite a lot, and made me question myself. But this day last week, when I got the e-mail, I just laughed. I laughed out loud in my room, and I decided not to spend a moment worrying about displeasing this gentleman. Because you can't please everyone, and you can't trim their hedges either.

*Patient and minor incidental details have been changed to protect the guilty!


Stomper Girl said...

Good for you Jelly. I love that you gave him alternatives such as not doing it all in one day. Heh. Or he could always pay someone else (one who has no back problems perhaps?) to trim his hedges?

Puss-in-Boots said...

There's always someone willing to insult your intelligence by thinking that you'll go along with the rort. Cheeky's people like him to put the insurance premiums up, I bet he rorts those too.

Good on you, Jelly.

Elaine said...

I had always heard that doctors got unreasonable requests for sick notes, but - trimming a hedge - I couldn't stop laughing.

Flossy said...

I'm so glad you didn't back down on this! What an absolute rotter...

It's probably the last time you'll see him though :)

meggie said...

If it is the last you see of UC... well Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish, as we used to say in school!

Good for you, for being honest.

Isabelle said...

Well now, Jellyhead, I've just spent almost every minute of my Sunday marking papers and preparing classes, so... could you send me over a medical cert for tomorrow? I think I may be tired...

fifi said...

oh thank Goodness you didn't give him one!!!

I am on the other end of that, with students asking for extensions and things , and they need a doctors certificate, or they want an extra three weeks, or whatever. Sometimes I wonder what they have spun to the doctor!

I tell them that legally I am not permitted to grant , etc etc. In fact i explained all that today.

( I just got your email: how synchronistic! hello!
don't be alarmed, dear one!)

Remiman said...

You did the right thing Doctor.
But since you're experiencing a wee twinge of guilt, would you mind faxing me a certificate for the next couple of days so that I can help my wife with the moving home from the cottage. The wekend was just to beautiful to mar with physical labor.
Thanking you in advance,

Heidi said...

My husband needs to learn this lesson about not being able to please everyone... especially in instances like this one where the client is being unreasonable.

Good for you! There is nothing I appreciate more than a physician doing the right and proper thing!

(One time I remember going in to get checked for strep and I did not have it. The poor doctor told me I just had a virus and he seemed to think I would get upset about not being able to get any medication. I told him "thank you" so much to combat his fear, because I was so glad he did not give in to public pressures on my diagnosis. It does not do anyone any good to abuse antibiotics!)

mackey said...

Good for u sticking to your guns. What nerve...& to argue with u to boot.

freefalling said...

I'd like to hear how he actually justified making that complaint!

thisisme said...

Oh Jelly, what a complete dill. Him, not you! Good for you sticking to your guns

Alipurr said...

oh, this is such a funny story...glad it was a clear cut case, and something that you could giggle about later, even if the whole thing made the guy mad

you gotta draw the line somewhere