Everyone knows I am the quietest person in my family. I still never shut up, so just imagine the rest of the family. Since I am the quietest person only when my siblings are around, my New Year’s Resolution is to become the quietest person always and forever. Of course, I have now made 64 resolutions and only successfully kept one: to become potty trained by first grade—and that wasn’t exactly a smooth ride.
The first step is quieting patient and staff interactions. I often say too much with patients, as I want them to: (a) totally understand their ocular conditions and visual status and (b) know every trivial thing I have ever done. Sometimes this makes for a very long exam; or, I just reschedule the exam and part two of my life story.
Because of my blabbering, I have learned a lot of words should be avoided when talking to patients:
1. Stupid. This should only be used in sentences that directly reference the patient’s previous, obviously stupid, optical experience. Example: “Why did my surgeon leave me so farsighted after cataract surgery?” You know the answer.
2. Never. If you tell a patient who switches to daily disposables after wearing monthly lenses continuously for six months that they will never develop a corneal ulcer, you are doomed. Did you know most strains of Staph. have tiny ears? This, combined with the bacteria’s black-hearted sense of humor, means the first night the patient goes to bed without their lenses for the first time in 27 years, some Staph. bug just hanging around at the base of an eyelash will do all he can to prove who’s boss.
3. Always. If you tell two parents who are, respectively, -9.00D and -11.00D, and every family member for 70 generations has been nearsighted, that their kids will be nearsighted too, you just magically created an emmetrope. Just be quiet and let genes prevail. Another option, of course, is to prophylactically treat with myopia control techniques and take the credit.
4. Curse words. Avoid these—unless, of course, the patient is your mom, who just bought new glasses online. Then, go for it.
5. Problem. The road to practice hell is paved with docs who say to their parting patient, “Let me know if you have any problems.”
6. Cataract surgery is really no big deal. The patient will kindly think, “wait until it’s your eye, doc.” They will also find a postoperative complication like, “My toilet flushed just fine until I had cataract surgery.”
7. Names. Never walk the patient out and say, “Have a nice day, Mrs. Jones.” HIPAA violation.
8. Have a nice day. They’ll bend your ear telling why they won’t.
9. Blonde fundus. Many patients will find that personally offensive.
10. Bifocal age. Instead, say, “your glasses should be more versatile.” It will take them roughly 21 days to realize what you meant, and by then you will be on vacation.
11. Mesozeaxanthin. You will pull a muscle in your mouth. I just hurt my finger typing it.
12. Congratulations, this is the best time to be over 40! One of my in-office reading cards says that, and I am actively searching for the 27-year-old marketing guru who came up with that piece of crap.
There are so many more, but I have to start somewhere. After all, “this is the best time to be in optometry!”