I read a lot of medical reports. Any time a patient goes to see a specialist for any reason, sooner or later I’ll get a report back detailing the visit and the recommendations. On an average day I read half a dozen or so. (Given how familiar I am with them, it is no great shakes for me to write a fake one convincingly.)
There is a tendency, which I suspect is unique to pediatrics, for the consultants to toss in some kind of complimentary remark about the patient and/or the family. “Patient is a lovely 9-month old girl…” “Thank you for referring this charming family…” In almost every single report I get, there’s something of this nature. “Adorable.” “Delightful.” “Sweet.” Etc. It is, frankly, hilarious, especially when I know full well that the patient is not particularly charming, lovely or delightful. I don’t know when or how it started, but it seems de rigueur for the report to contain some kind of paean to the patient’s graces.
Only once have I read a report that said, flatly, “patient is filthy and ill-kept.” I presume the consultant included this remark because: 1) the patient was indeed so filthy and ill-kept that to maintain otherwise would have been borderline fraudulent, and 2) because it was relevant to the reason for the referral, which was skin infections in numerous areas related to poor hygiene. Even then, it was so out of keeping with the norm to be a little bit startling.
Anyhow, that brings us to this week’s question — is there some silly professional custom that you’ve observed or participated in like this in your field? Some nicety that probably started as a pleasant notion, that has now become so routine and removed from reality as to be somewhat ridiculous? I’m genuinely curious.