It is natural to sometimes feel compelled to gift someone after an event. This is more so after some sort of service, including healthcare. It isn’t unusual for patients to want to give gifts to their doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. This is mostly in attempts to express gratitude after recovery from some illness. It is a way of thanking those who took care of your healthcare needs.
Doctors and other healthcare workers are bound by strict professional codes. One of the codes is to always maintain a professional doctor-patient relationship and resist anything that may blur such a relationship.
Gifts to doctors, especially if of high monetary or sentimental value, may shift professional boundaries to shaky grounds. You should always think of a pretty neutral way of expressing thankful feelings to your doctor.
Most doctors do not usually expect any gifts from patients. But what if you have an overriding urge to give your doctor a gift?
Ask yourself why giving a gift is important to you. Did the doctor go out of their way, or were they just rendering their service to you as they normally would? What kind of gift will you offer, and how much will it cost you? You must also consider the setting at which you will pass on the gift. It could be at your next clinic appointment, by post, or through a third party. You are unlikely to know beforehand if your gift will be accepted.
Your doctor may be compelled by institutional policies to declare gifts beyond a specific value. Or as a matter of principle, may not accept any gifts at all from patients. Some will usually suggest that you pass on the gift to a deserving party instead, like a community charity for example. To avoid the possibility of gift rejection, seek out some information beforehand. Receptionists, nurses or other patients will tell you if offering a gift is acceptable. They will also tell you what kinds of gifts to give if at all, and of what value.
If you must give a gift, select something impersonal. Avoid anything of sentimental value, or unnecessarily expensive. You will always be better off if you do not personalise the gift to the doctor. Remember it’s all teamwork. Think of something that can be shared in the doctor’s office by all the team members, like a box of chocolates for example.
Better still, don’t buy any gifts at all. Just drop a thank you card, with a simple message of gratitude. The principle should be an appreciation of services rendered. There are no expectations to gift your doctor. If you must, keep it simple.
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Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.