Friday, January 17, 2014

Sweetie

Lately, I've been calling my female patients "sweetie" a lot.

It's mostly because I call my kids and their friends "sweetie" sometimes. And sometimes my patients really remind me of kids.

Do you think that's offensive? It doesn't bother me when people call me that... actually, I sort of like it.

52 comments:

  1. I get how some people get offended at sweetie or hun, but I don't think it's a big deal, especially in the South or Midwest.
    My tip after offending a couple younger women by calling them ma'am (when I couldn't remember their name), is I call all women Miss. It fits the younger women, and the older women get a kick out of it, haha.

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  2. Yeah, I think it's offensive. It can be really condescending, and while I totally get that you don't mean it that way, I'd prefer my doctor call me by my name. It's a term of endearment, and frankly, we're not that close :)

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  3. I fell into that trap at one time, but then I realized how much I dislike being called sweetie, hon, dear... By anyone outside my close circle. You should break the habit. Some people don't mind, some HATE it.

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  4. For the record I only do it with women who seem kind of sweet and pathetic.

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    1. In that case, it is diminutive.

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    2. "Do you think that's offensive? It doesn't bother me when people call me that... actually, I sort of like it."
      "For the record I only do it with women who seem kind of sweet and pathetic."
      These comments seem at odds with each other. I do think it is unprofessional, but to each her own, sweetie. ;)

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    3. By pathetic, I just mean someone in obvious pain or discomfort. I would hold their hand and say, "it's ok sweetie".

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    4. Fizzy! I have been your adoring stalker up until now but I have to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, you need to stop doing this. I think most people (especially the "pathetic sweet" women") would be offended by this. Also, just because you enjoy something doesn't mean it doesn't offend your patients, or at the very least make them uncomfortable.

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  5. Unless you are an elderly waitress at Denny's, it is offensive. Especially in the south and Midwest. Especially the way you are doing it. Go ahead and call animals and children under the age of 5 sweetie but not grown women in a professional setting who already have to bare their bodies at you.

    Good for you for thinking about this and being willing to stop.

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    1. Especially in the south and midwest? I'm not sure about the Midwest, but in the South, we don't care. Let me rephrase, the majority who has been here forever doesn't care. We have the Northerners that have moved here and they are offended and in the South....so they fit your category.

      I say anywhere else, that wouldn't be professional, so I agree with you on that note.

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    2. I'm born and bred in the South; my family has been south of the Mason-Dixon for hundreds of years - and I mean that quite literally. I hate being called sweetie.

      As nicoleandmaggie says "...but not grown women in a professional setting who already have to bare their bodies at you." Perfect encapsulation of *my* feelings - which are my own.

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    3. I'm in the South right now. It has MEANING here. Just like Bless Your Heart has (which means, "You're an idiot"). Just because something is said a lot doesn't mean it isn't code for something else.

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  6. Yeah, I would find it offensive. Unless an elderly relative said it. Context: I live in New England.

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  7. I live in the south. We say stuff like "bless your heart" "Sugarpie" and stuff like that. Depending on where you are is where it matters. In the south, we have other stuff to be offended by. If you want to be close to your patients, saying that will make the patients feel closer. It's more 'who do you want to be more butt hurt'? Everyone is offended by everything.

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  8. I think some of the readers above have hinted at the issue of the power differential.

    How would you feel about being called "sweetie" by your boss? By your own doctor? (knowing in both cases that for you it's only used for those the people consider "sweet and pathetic"?)

    How does gender work here? Why do you only use it for women?

    ~J

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    1. I have been called sweetie by nurses before and I liked it. It felt compassionate bc I was in a sick role.

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    2. I don't mind being called sweetie by nurses either. But a doctor? No. It's the power differential.

      And yes, it sucks that nurses are lower in the power scale than doctors, but that's how it is. Nurses are thought of as service, doctors are thought of as experts. When service people do it, it's compassionate, when experts do it, it is a way to re-enforce power differentials.

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    3. I actually think compassion is an incredibly important part of being a physician.

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    4. Thank you, Dr. Fizzy. I imagine you are an excellent Physician!

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    5. Of course (most) physicians are compassionate. But when they're calling someone sweetie, the diminutive aspects over-rule the compassion, unlike for someone in a service position.

      Are you trying to argue that you should continue to call people sweetie despite its problematic aspects? Why?

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    6. Mostly bc I like being called sweetie and I think maybe it makes docs seem less aloof and cold. Your logic doesn't entirely make sense.

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    7. Seriously, your training taught you nothing about how doctors are authority figures? You've never heard about how they're "Dr. Lastname" but their patients are always Firstname? How people are afraid to ask them questions? I suppose not... bedside manner isn't supposed to be covered in medical school.

      Sweetie, using language that diminishes people when you are coming from a position of authority doesn't make you seem less aloof and cold, it makes you seem MORE condescending. Hon, I'm sorry to hear that you don't understand my logic, I mean, bless your heart, I'm sure your heart is in the right place, but when half of the people you ask this question are saying that it's condescending, diminishing, and they hate it... then it's a little odd that you'd even bother consulting other people's feelings on the matter if you're just going to ignore them and listen to your own.

      In fact, it sounds like something an authority figure who looks down on other people would do.

      What percentage of your patients have to feel that it's sexist/condescending/diminishing for you to stop doing it? More than 50%? And why'd you even ask other people's opinion? Just to be validated?

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    8. It's one thing to do it to comfort a person and another thing to do it to be intentionally mean like you just did.

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    9. Something that is important for Physicians to understand is that you are speaking a language that MOST PEOPLE do not understand. Not a lot of people are very health literate. When you enter the room, with your (assumed, of course) higher income, higher education, higher power... it can very easily make someone feel defensive. Using any kind of diminutive moniker only highlights this imbalance. Like one of the above writers said, you could get away with it in the south, but not many other places.

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  9. I think it's nice. I had a Physician call me "M'Dear" and I loved it. My Primary care gives hugs and I love that too.

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    1. But then, I'm probably kind of pathetic....both Physicians are men and very kind and understanding. And, I am very fascinated and interested in all things medical...whatever that has to do with anything.

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  10. Being called "sweetie" or "hon" immediately sets my teeth on edge. I know it's a different story in the south, and I try not to get mad at the very elderly who use it (different culture) but if someone even three decades with in my age range calls me "sweetie" I set them straight immediately. Usually a swift "I'm not your sweetie" does it. Maybe that makes me look mean, but I am not some child to be coddled.

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  11. Midwesterner here. I know you mean well, but please do not continue to do this. It is presumptuous and undignified for all of the reasons other commenters have made clear. (Technically, people should be addressed as Mr. X or Mrs./Ms. Y until they give permission to use a first name or nickname.) Also, the fact that there are people who dislike it and find it offensive should be enough to discourage you from doing it to anyone past young childhood.

    Queen Anne's Lace

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  12. I call my patients "sweetie" all the time, but I am a veterinarian. There is no way I would ever call one of my clients "sweetie". It's unprofessional.

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  13. I call my patients "sweetie," "buddy," and "handsome" all the time, but like Anon at 9:03am I'm a vet. I would never, in a million years, call a client "sweetie." They are Mr/Miss LastName until I've been instructed to call them otherwise. Even the teenagers that bring their own pets in.

    I'm from the East Coast, and I absolutely LOATHE being called any sort of diminutive/nickname unless it is by very close family members. I get the generational divide, and I don't correct older people who call me "sweetie" or "hun," but you bet your a** a nurse, PA, doc, pharmacist, etc who called me one of those would be hearing from me. Not even in when in labor do I like being called that by someone I don't/barely know.

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    1. Honestly I would have given anything for a sweetie from the abrupt aloof OB that delivered me. Made my labor so much worse.

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    2. I get it that some people prefer it. I just think, given the inherent power differential pointed out by others, in a doctor-to-patient situation it's best to err on the side of formality. Not abruptness, but formality.

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  14. I had no idea this was an issue that enraged people so much and I'll certainly watch my language even if I'm comforting a crying little old lady. I appreciate those of you who commented in a mature way without personal attacks.

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  15. Fizzy, I find this interesting, as a ER doctor that trained in the South and is working on the West Coast, I find the responses you are getting are very interesting. I often call my patients sweetie or sweetheart, I enjoy the endearments, and given that I often seen patients on one of the worst days of their lives I always thought it was comforting. Of course I tailor this to each individual patient, as I am sure you do. Some patients I know from the get-go will be Mr Last name, and no endearments, and some after talking I get the feeling they would find it comforting. I several years of working, I have never been chastised by a patient for it (but have been for many other things), but have had MANY tell me that my bedside manor (sitting on their bed, hand on their knee, talking to the patient, sweeties and all) is wonderful and that they felt comforted. Perhaps people don't mind because I am a woman, and young, and frankly most my patients think I am the nurse (despite introducing myself as their physician or doctor), and that kind of caring behavior is ok from a nurse but doctors should be cold hard facts.

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  16. If my doctor is treating me as an intelligent adult, I don't mind her calling me sweetie. I've had some who treat me like an idiot (for example, the doctor who saw me at the low-income clinic for an ear infection asked me how I KNEW I was a virgin... um, been in my body the entire time I've owned it, and just look at my ear, you creep) and I resent the heck out of endearments from them because it's condescending.
    Now something I do find annoying is when my child's doctor/nurse calls me "Mom." I'm not your mother. Take a second before coming in the room to check your patient's name AND their parent's name - I know you see hundreds of people every week and don't mind if you don't remember my name. I'm GLAD my little ones aren't there enough for you to remember my name. In fact, if you haven't met me before, I actually really appreciate it if you ask my name. It shows that you value me and my child.

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    1. Just realized the dichotomy in my post there. The visit at the low-income clinic was long before I met my husband and had kids...

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    2. I do live in the South and all sorts of people call me "sweetie" or "hon"- female sales clerks, nurses, mammo techs, etc. I find it amusing but not particularly endearing. I've never had a doctor call me "sweetie" and I think I'd find it condescending.

      I suggest that if you want to comfort or to fond a bond with a patient, you would do better to use her (or his) name. (Just remember that if you use her/his first name, you may get first-named back.)

      For the record, I am absolutely crazy about my primary, we know a lot of the same people and have discussed many non-medical as well as medical subjects (one reason that he is always running late in his practice). But I don't see him socially and we are not on a first-name basis. And I think we are both quite comfortable with our professional relationship.

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    3. Now that I think about it, it's not only females who call me "sweetie" or "hon", but then this is the south.

      And, for the record, not all my doctors are male.

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    4. I think I'd find it weird coming from a male doc. Or in casual conversation with a physician. I just find that it comes up often that I have to do some serious comforting and that's when it seems appropriate.

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  17. I personally really dislike it. Of course I'm in my mid 20's and look young so when people call me sweetie it comes off as condescending and I feel like a child. I'm a med student and have had patients call me that before so it is a different situation than what you are describing. However, I do remember mentioning it to my grandma in the past that it bothered me and she said she really didn't like it either because when she's called sweetie it makes her feel old. I try not to use those names with people I don't know well just because it can rub some of us the wrong way.

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  18. I think it depends on the circumstances. The only time I have ever had a doctor call me that was, in fact, at a time when I was extremely distressed, and I knew the doctor well. In that context, I found it quite comforting. If I had been more composed and the doctor one I knew less well, it might have irritated me.

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  19. I'm with you on this - if it's said in a condescending way (if the person is trying to educate you or tell you why you're wrong as if you're too naive to understand a simple explanation), it's rude. If it is said to comfort a patient, it might be compassionate, depending on what kind of relationship you have with the patient.

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  20. I'm a physician, and a pediatrician, this doesn't come up much for me. However, my 90 year old very dignified grandmother was recently discharged from the hospital after a serious illness. When the home nurse came for a check up, she called her honey and sweetie practically every other word. It was like nails on a chalk board, it irritated me so much. She had no relationship with her, and I suspect it made my grandmother feel so diminished from her usual self. 90 years experience in this world, and then you get demoted to being a child?

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    1. Why didn't you say something to her about it then??

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    2. Because if a home nurse (or any medical provider) gets angry at you, they can do all sorts of passive aggressive stuff that hurts you. They might not, but they could, and we fear that possibility.

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    3. So essentially you have to let your grandma suffer bc even a polite request will be met with the wrath of this woman who calls everyone sweetie? Well that's unfortunate.

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  21. I dislike being called sweetie by anyone except my husband. It actually annoys me that all of my doctors call me by my first name, even though I've never given them permission to do so, also.

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  22. I have to go with the majority here - I, too, would hate being called "sweetie" by doctors or nurses, and I'm old (but not pathetic, I hope). I recently had knee replacement surgery and was talking with a physician-friend of mine about this very subject. I am a nurse and I know many, many nurses who call their patients honey or sweetie, especially the older patients. I told my friend that I would not be at all happy if a nurse called me "sweetie" while I was in the hospital; my friend, the doctor, didn't think it was that big a deal. I think we were both surprised by our reactions. As it happened, none of my nurses called me sweetie or honey. However, (and here is the irony), my IV infiltrated one night. My nurse, who peered at my arm from about 3 ft away without turning on the light, declared that it was not infiltrated, it was positional. Oh, so not true, but I couldn't convince her until I finally said, "Listen, sweetie, I've been a critical care nurse for longer than you've been alive and I know the difference between infiltrated and positional. You can trust me when I say that this is infiltrated and I want you to take it out now." She did. (After she turned the light on, she also acknowledged that it was, indeed, infiltrated.) I just found it funny that it was I who broke the "sweetie" rule. (Of course, I did not mean it in an endearing way, either. Maybe that makes it different.) Tricia

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  23. I'm a med student. The resident I'm with calls me (and everyone else around her) "sweetie." It makes me feel like she can't even be bothered to know my name - which is especially irritating after I've gotten you coffee 3 times today, did all your type and screens/blood bank runs, and have been sitting in amb surg all day to text you when patients show up.

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  24. Recently, I had a thyroidectomy at a large well know teaching hospital. It's a long way from where we live but the doctors are amazing. The problem are the ducklings. Everytime the resident sees me I get "sweetie", "do you remember me?" I have met the man twice and yes I remember him. I can't wait to see him next week when I call him "honey". I have been an RN for years and teach in a BSN program. It is unprofessional to call co-workers or patients "sweetie" unless both parties are comfortable with it. Honey, I wish you would look at my name before you walked in to see me. It's written on the chart.

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