Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I let a patient do my hair.

Oh yes, I did.
This is not a level of intimacy with which I am that comfortable, but when it became apparent within minutes of starting our appointment that she was not going to Let This Go, I acquiesced.

I was running late, and the messy braid running down my back was obviously going to be a barrier to our getting through a few important issues in this otherwise routine follow-up visit. Before you go thinking this is terribly creepy or whatever - she identified herself as a "trained beautician" who wanted to make me look "as beautiful as the pastor's wife".  Fine. Fine. FIX ME.

I doubt very much any of my male colleagues would have allowed this to happen. I speculated as to if female physicians in other fields would have consented to an exam room "make over". Do patients ask to re-do the surgeon's hair? The psychiatrist's? Surely not. Eventually, as she was still twisting my hair this way and that, I rounded my way to the realization that few, if any other female physicians would find themselves in this position.

This might, in other words, be a me-specific problem. And I am wondering if I should be bothered by it, because, aside from feeling a bit bashful at the time, I'm not. I just hope years of medical training and motherhood aren't eroding an occasionally whisper-thin sense of self-preservation.

But hey, even if they are, I still got a new hair-do that earned me some compliments later in the afternoon. Self preservation? Ah, just FIX ME.


  1. Fixing one another's hair is a time-honored traditional way of showing affection and familiarity with your peers. Take it as a compliment-your patient likes you and wants to be friends with you. That's a neat gift from nearly anyone.

  2. Agreed with Lynda. I would do it. It looks great.

  3. So, how did your hair come out?
    Frankly, just because a person is your patient, you can still have a relationship with her. Think of small town docs who treat their acquaintances, colleagues and friends. Over your career, some patients will just be closer to you. It's human nature.

  4. I actually started using my patient as my regular beautician. I loved how her her looked and felt she would do a good job with mine. After several visits, I became frustrated with her asking personal health issues during my appointments. I'm an ob/gyn and wonder how she would feel if I started asking hair questions after I inserted the speculum? I sstopped going to her after she kept giving me the same style and kept trying to push expensive treatments. Vowed to try to keep patient and service people separate.

  5. I know of no other male or female physicians who would allow a patient to do this. I don't know of any other professionals who would do this either because it's just not professional.

    How would I have handled this situation? Put down pen/paper/computer. Make eye contact and in a controlled but serious tone of voice say, "You seem to be fixated on my hair but you are here to discuss you medical problems with me. You have several issues that I need to cover but I have a limited amount of time to spend on appointments and I have other patients to see. You need to stop worrying about my hair so we can get to these issues today or we can reschedule your appointment."

    I'd be suprised if the patient continued with the hair silliness but if she did I would get up and leave (nicely, not in a huff) and reschedule the patient for another time.

  6. My best friend, a talented beautician, gained her ob/gyn as a new client/friend. She was new to the practice in town and was having trouble finding someone she liked do her hair. No issues so far.

    I don't see what the big deal is. As long you don't feel boundaries were terribly breached take her help as a gift and the ensuing compliments. She helped out your hair, that is all.

  7. I don't think it's a terrible thing that she did your hair and it does look nice, but the bad part (to me) is that it sounds like she bullied you into it. If you enjoyed it, then I don't think it's a big deal.

  8. I think it's cute. As a Medical Student I helped do several little girls' hair (a brown one and a white one) when their mothers nor nurses knew what to do with their ample natural curls or fine matted strands. As a brown girl with my own afro, I know the sense of connection having ones hair done and doing others can bring. I think it's nice that you found a solution that worked to get your patient over her fixation (now why she thinks only Pastors' wives have great hair, I don't know) and got you a cute twist in the process.

  9. I dunno if it's bullying, but I think eventually people learn that it's easier to just say yes instead of keep arguing sometimes.

    It looks very nice, though! And it could have possibly been a cultural/OCD thing, too.


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