Do You Know the Janitor’s Name?

My mom, a Registered Nurse, is the primary reason I went into medicine. As a young girl from small town USA, I never saw a female physician, let alone an African-American one. As I continue to pursue my interest in medicine, the advice she always told me was, “Respect everyone”.  She would say, “Unfortunately, a bad reputation is a hard thing to get rid of in the medical field. It will perpetuate your problems for what appears to be forever.” She said that as a doctor, nurses can teach you the lay of the land or make your life a living hell. They will show you how to stick a patient who is an IV drug user with no visible veins, how to put a Foley catheter in a 400-pound patient without assistance from anyone else, and how to take down a belligerent patient without lifting a finger. So respect them.

She reminded me that respect goes both ways. As a doctor, the janitor or housekeeper will unlock and open doors for you and sometimes even clean the OR faster to help your turnover time – if you respect them. The nurse’s aid can let you know the real 4-1-1 on your patient, if their families think you’re good, and the likelihood of discharging them in a timely manner – so respect them. And as a doctor, every ancillary staff person known or unknown to you, has family and friends who will either highly endorse you by word of mouth or be your worst PR nightmare and change the status of your practice in one conversation – so respect them!

Medicine has, and always will, be a customer service business.  The patient is not always right, but you better make sure they think they are. No matter who you encounter within the world of medicine, whether it is the patient, a fellow medical professional, or someone who just happens to be part of your space, respect them. This is projected in several ways and reflects good character.

For example:
• Be courteous and polite
• Be appreciative
• Accept the differences of individuals
• Be patient through of the arbitrary emotions of patients and their family

Today I pay homage to my Mom, and every janitor, nurse and nurse’s aid who taught me about the practice of medicine. It is more than just a text book, a classroom lecture or an intellectual test. Medicine is about people, patients, families and all those who support the entity of the medical profession. Pop quiz: What is the name of janitor where you work?