I have this patient. I wish she were my friend. But, of course, she cannot be my friend, because that would violate the principle of professional distance.
You know what that means, right? A doctor isn't supposed to get "too close" to her patients. Although that phrase is not well defined anywhere, there is a tacit understanding that getting "too close" or "too involved" is bad for both parties.
Bad for the doctor because you lose your objectivity and can't think straight. Not to mention, you might end up getting hurt if there's a negative outcome. And, of course, there's the time-honored practice of putting ourselves on pedestals, which is hard to do if you're down in the muck with the patient.
Bad for the patient because the doctor loses her objectivity and can't think straight. Not to mention, it's hard to fire a doctor if they're also your friend. And, of course, there's the possibly comforting traditional role of doctor as boss, abrogating you, the patient, of responsibility, which is hard to maintain if you're equals.
All that said, albeit somewhat with tongue in cheek, I find it hard at times to maintain this distance. This patient is a case in point. She came to see me a couple weeks ago. We clicked immediately. She's friendly, casual, comfortable with herself, funny, smart. I am seeing her for a minor but persistent problem that has required her to come back several times, and each time I have a really good time, as if we were meeting socially for coffee or something. Don't get me wrong: I am treating her, and successfully too. But the treatment gives us time to chat. I even told her the story about the time I spilled trichloroacetic acid on...but that's fodder for another post.
I know we'd be really good friends if circumstances were different. It makes me feel sad.
She's moving away soon, to the other side of the country, taking dilemma and possibility with her. I wish her well, and I'll miss her.