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Advice | Ask Amy: I want to be friends with my friendly nurse

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dear amy: I am a happily married 54 year old woman. I have a great primary care medical provider.

“Rebecca” is a practice nurse in a large practice. I have been going to her for about four years. Rebecca is personable, interesting, authentic and has an easygoing and fun sense of humour. She asks about my family, vacations, etc, and just seems like a good person.

From day one I leave every medical appointment because I want to be friends with her. We just seem to have a compatible energy and a kind of ‘click’. At my most recent pre-surgery appointment, she greeted me with a big smile and very excited: “I’m SO glad you’re finally able to have this surgery! I am so happy for you!”

I have no idea if this is just her typical “bedside manner,” but I was quite moved. I have a good group of girlfriends and value friendship as one of the great joys of life. If Rebecca wasn’t my doctor, I’d invite her over for coffee and be open to making a new friend — or not.

But given the limits of this relationship, is there any way to figure out if we can be friends, or if she’s just that way with all her patients? And ethically, CAN doctor and patient become friends?

Then it pays off to switch to another provider in practice, but I don’t want to make that switch for nothing.

checked: The most “appropriate” and ethical attitude is that everyone stays in their box; “Rebecca” remains your excellent and humane caregiver, and you remain her grateful patient.

The warm personal bond you two share enhances your medical care: you feel comfortable and communicate well – she listens clearly, remembers details about your life and cares about you.

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

Making an offer to befriend your healthcare provider is somewhat risky as it could change the dynamic between you. If you want to try friendship outside the office, don’t ask her for coffee (that’s a bit too intimate). Contact her via email (not the patient portal) and invite her to a group event along with other friends – a fundraiser, walk, or performance.

She can then accept or object based on her own comfort level, and your professional rapport will be preserved.

dear amy: My mother-in-law and I don’t always agree on everything, but we are cordial and appreciate each other. Now that the grandkids have gotten older and there’s less reason to communicate, I find myself unsure when or if I should call her.

In the past when I have called to chat she seems happy to talk to me but she never calls me. I feel like I have to assume that if she never calls me then she doesn’t want to talk to me. In fact, one time when she was going through a rough time, she actually told me I didn’t “need” to call her.

However, she lives alone and is getting older, and I sometimes wonder how she is doing. I do remind my husband to call once in a while, and he does.

We see her in person once every month or two, and she has other relatives and friends who live closer and see her more often.

caller: I think these calls you make are important even if you always initiate them. As she gets older, they’ll be essential ways to check in.

Your mother-in-law may be shy or a little intimidated. Some people have a real aversion to talking on the phone – it’s a kind of slowness that’s hard to overcome. From what you write, it seems that she does not call her son either. Keep it up; it’s the right thing to do.

dear amy: “Delivered to suburban Chicagolandwrote that her 13-year-old daughter burst out laughing and left the room when these parents told her they were getting a divorce.

I thought I was the only teen laughing at the worst possible time. When my parents dramatically told me my grandmother had passed away, I burst out laughing.

A short time later I realized that this weird reaction was mainly because I was overwhelmed. I still miss Nana.

Missing: Laughter in response to loss seems strange, but it does happen.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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