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Ask Amy: Does my doctor really like me or is this just bedside manner?


Dear Amy: I am a happily married 54-year-old woman. I have a great primary medical provider.

“Rebecca” is a nurse practitioner in a large practice. I’ve been going to her for about four years.

She is personable, interesting, authentic, and has an easy and fun sense of humor. She asks about my family, vacations, etc., and seems to just be a good person.

From day one, I’ve left every medical appointment wanting to be friends with her. We just seem to have a compatible energy and sort of “click.”

At my most recent pre-op appointment, she greeted me with a huge smile and a very enthusiastic, “I’m so glad you’re finally able to have this surgery! I’m so happy for you!”

I have no idea if this is just her typical “bedside manner,” but I was quite touched.

I have a good group of girlfriends, and I deeply value friendship as one of life’s great joys.

If Rebecca were not my doctor, I would invite her to coffee, and be open to making a new friend — or not. But given the boundaries of this relationship, is there any way to figure out if we could be friends, or if this is just how she is with all her patients?

And ethically, can a doctor and patient become friends?

If so, it would be worth switching to a different provider in the practice, but I don’t want to make that switch for nothing.

What’s appropriate?

Wellness Checked

Dear Checked: The most “appropriate” and ethical stance is for everyone to stay in their boxes: Rebecca remaining your excellent and humane health care provider, and you remaining her grateful patient.

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The warm personal rapport you two share enhances your medical care: You feel comfortable and communicate well; she obviously listens, remembers details about your life, and cares about you.

Despite the standard of maintaining boundaries, practitioners and patients do step out of these boxes because they are human beings and sometimes human beings just click. The OB who delivers the premature baby becomes a family friend; the oncology nurse administering chemo connects with a survivor.

Making a bid for friendship with your health care provider is somewhat risky because doing so might shift the dynamic between you.

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