I was a Boy Scout. (No, I never made Eagle Scout. I barely earned a camping merit badge.) Still, I did have one important honor. I was the Scout who found the most interesting “oddity of nature” for the year 1965. My Scoutmaster proudly announced that it was “fox poop.” Beat that, Eagle Scout!
And, I did learn the scout motto: Be Prepared! That’s why I
write this column today. The world is flying into the future and I want to help
my colleagues to Be Prepared:
• Learn to read. Sure, you know the difference between
Mittendorf and Vossius. Who doesn’t? I mean, learn to read something important
like “For Whom The Bell Tolls” or “Hamlet,” or even “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Communication is the key, and you can only learn to communicate if you first
hold paper in your hand. No, reading text messages does not count :(
• Respect your elders. I feel very strongly about this ever
since I actually became an elder. At your next meeting, sit at the old guys’
table (the one where at least 50% of the occupants have had more than one
colonoscopy). You’ll be glad you did. Also, it’s likely they will give you
their dessert because they are watching their cholesterol.
• Buy decent toilet paper. This is a strong practice
builder, well loved by patient and staff member alike. Also, it’s preferred by
four out of five optometrists. (I wonder about that one out of five who
• Keep bottled water in the exam rooms. Hide a couple small
bottles in the cabinet for those patient coughing spells that only occur when
you are behind or when the patient has a deadly disease. The time you save on
watching them hack will not only cover the additional water cost, but also put
your kids though college.
• Write the patient’s eye color in the chart. You want to
feel stupid? Get subpoenaed as a witness in a colleague’s malpractice case and
have an attorney ask you if you “carefully examined this patient’s eyes,” and
then ask you, “Just offhand, what color were the patient’s eyes?” Trust me. You
will feel very stupid.
• Make every person who dares to enter your office use a
squirt of hand sanitizer. Do I really have to explain this to you? EVERYONE. No
exceptions. You too.
• Remove your desk drawer. Empty its contents into the
trash. Reinsert your desk drawer. Repeat yearly.
• Review the cover photo and bylines of each magazine before
placing it in the waiting room—unless, of course, you want to see your preacher
looking at a picture of Kelly Ripa in a bikini above the phrase “Jumpstart Your
• Admit errors. When you break a patient’s eyewire fiddling
around with pantoscopic tilt, go right to the patient and immediately apologize
for your staff member’s mistake.
• Step away from the Internet! Do not e-surf between
patients. It is distracting and annoying. Also, you will invariably download
something that will infect your EMRs and send all your patients a picture of
some naked person from your college frat, or an advertisement for
• Read the chart BEFORE entering the exam room. This is one
area where EMRs can be very, very helpful. I love to walk in the room knowing
way ahead of time the critical medical information, such as that this patient
has missed four appointments. It helps me in planning his next year’s
pre-appointment for a day we’re closed.
This list is not exhaustive, although many of you are
probably now exhausted after reading it.
The point is simply this: Be prepared. If you’re going to
pick up fox poop, wear gloves.