By TMoM Team Member, Dani Luft
A fan of TMoM recently requested that we write an article on “being friends with your OB/GYN.” She stated that she is feeling awkward as she has recently developed a friendship with her doctor outside of the office due to their social circles. Our reader wanted to know if other women out there are friends with their doctor and also if the OB/GYN’s feel awkward on the flip side of things.
So we decided to poll some local OB/GYN’s and ask them a few questions on this topic. What questions would you like answered on this topic? Are you friends with the one who may see your vagazzle? (Anyone see that Grey’s Anatomy?)
Q: Do you feel uncomfortable when a friend is a patient?
Dr. F: No, not at all. When I know a patient socially, it often allows me more insight into their personal situation that may help me to help make informed, logical decisions about their healthcare.
Dr. M: No, I love taking care of friends. I get to help them when they need it or be a part of them having babies or get to see them just for their yearly exams. It’s great!
Dr. S: Not usually. This is a small enough community that it would be impossible to avoid friends entirely, and sometimes people become friends after they are already my patient.
Q: Is it awkward for you to see that friend in public?
Dr. F: Nope. I’m a gynecologist. Not a lot embarrasses me.
Dr. M: No. It doesn’t even cross my mind. Work stays at work.
Dr. S: No, although it may be awkward for them. Most doctors are able to compartmentalize pretty well, which is a great coping mechanism for difficult situations when we still need to have our clinical decision making ability intact. This also means that often when I see a friend in public I don’t really remember what we talked about at her last visit, even though she assumes I do!
Q: Do you think a woman can have a personal friendship with her OB/GYN and still be open and honest about her feminine needs and concerns at appointments?
Dr. F: I would certainly hope so! Women tell their girlfriends’ some of their biggest fears! I am honored that I can help alleviate those fears as they relate to fears about health, sexuality, etc.
Dr. M: Absolutely! A lot of people feel better to talk to someone they have a good relationship with.
Dr. S: I do. As a female ob/gyn this is almost just an extension of a female-female friendship. Men might have a more difficult time with this, although this is probably felt more on the patient’s side than on the physician’s. Some of us can be very different people when wearing our white coats, and we all try pretty hard to separate work from personal time.
Q: Do you, as the Doctor, feel awkward asking questions of your friends sexual relationships, birth control, etc or is it strictly a job to you?
Dr. F: While some of my patients probably wish I found these questions awkward, all of my patients know I have no qualms with being blunt as heck. If I think a question will help me to help a patient, I will ask it…no matter how blunt/awkward/personal it may be.
Dr. M: It’s not awkward. As their doctor, we talk about what we need to, but when we’re out as friends, it’s totally different.
Dr. S: Again, I (and most of my colleagues) are able to separate the friendship from the clinical relationship. I did have a patient who became one of my best friends. She ended up moving and got a new ob/gyn and I admit I was a bit relieved. For most friends, though, this is not an issue.
Q: Are you resentful of friends that are NOT your patients and see another OB/GYN?
Dr. F: Heck no! I want my friends to get the best medical care they can in a setting that makes them the most comfortable. If they are more comfortable not seeing a friend, then that is their choice, and as their friend, I support that whole heartedly.
Dr. M: I want everything to be comfortable whether it’s with me or not.
Dr. S: No, because I understand that it could make them uncomfortable to see me in this way, but it is usually their comfort that drives this, not mine.
Q: Are you annoyed when friends ask you medical questions when you’re out at a casual setting?
Dr. F: To be honest, I am a physician married to a physician who is the son of a physician. “Casual conversation” in our family often turns medical. I don’t even notice “medical advice” questions. That is just part and parcel of normal conversation. If I can help a friend by answering a question, I feel like I’m actual doing something good. So no, I am far from annoyed.
Dr. M: No, of course not. I want to help them when I can.
Dr. S: No, although my husband rolls his eyes and moves away! I try to keep these conversations general to avoid privacy issues, and I definitely try to keep it short and get back to having fun!
So what do you think? If you are friends with your doctor do you feel a little more at ease about it now?