Don’t Call Me Honey: An Open Letter to Patients Older Than Me 

When I enter a room with a patient I have a routine.  I knock, I introduce myself “Hi my name is Danielle, I’m a Physician Assistant I’m one of the providers here today”. I give a firm, confident handshake looking the patient in the eyes. I’m self assured and confident–not cocky, confident. I’m 32 years old.  I have a bachelors degree and two masters degrees.  I look like I’m about 18 and at least once per day I get asked “Are you old enough to do this” or get called “Honey” or “Sweetie” or “Dear”. 

Let me be clear, when older adults call me these things in different contexts of my life such as someone holding a door at Starbucks or in the check out line at the grocery store it doesn’t irritate me.  Hell, thanks a lot I’m 32 and you probably think I’m in my early twenties.  

However, when you walk in to a providers office I view these potential “terms of endearment” quite differently.

  1. Just because you are older than me doesn’t mean that you have better judgement with your google search

    Let me be clear, I don’t disregard statements my patients make.  Many times per day I have patients that come in and say “my kid just isn’t acting right” or “Every time I have a UTI this is what it feels like”.  However, you walked in to this office and you are paying for my medical opinion and clinical judgement. If I am unsure of something, I am the first person to directly tell my patient and seek a second opinion.  Until that time, please remember that you sought out a medical professionals opinion.  Again, let me be clear it isn’t that I don’t listen to my patients.  I understand when a patient says “Yea, my fever is only 99.5 but I am never about 97 or 98” or “Last time this happened I ended up with pneumonia because it wasn’t treated right away”.  Those are important things to know, and I am more than happy to hear those statements–hell it helps my clinical judgement. Saying “honey I looked this up on the internet and this is what it is,” is rude and disrespectful.  Don’t talk at me, speak with me. I give you this same respect and decency, please give me the same.

  2. Its degrading

    I’m not “honey” or “sweetie” to you.  I’m your medical provider. I’m here to offer the solution I believe based on my clinical judgement and education best suits the ailment or symptoms you are presently experiencing.  Also, dare I ask the question: If I were a man would you still use these terms? If I were older or looked older or always wore a white coat–would you make these statements? Perhaps, but I do strongly believe that it is geared towards the female gender and that if I were a man it wouldn’t occur nearly as frequently.  

  3. Your terms of endearment undercut my education.  

    You may not intend to do this, and maybe I am misinterpreting.  Think about it, we frequently call small children “honey” and “sweetie” or “dear”.  They sure don’t have the education or intellect necessary to perform a clinical assessment and prescribe treatment.  Using the terms you use to speak to children makes me feel like you do not respect me as a professional medical provider.  Period.

  4. Please do not ask me if I am “Going on to Become a Physician”

    Ok, confession this doesn’t quite fit the mold of this blog.  However, I am a Physician Assistant.  It is a profession and a damn good one.  In fact it is projected to be the #1 Masters degree and profession through 2025 at this time.  We are not in 1970 where “people just don’t know what it is”.  This is 2016.  PA programs are more competitive by the numbers to earn acceptance than medical school.  I am not a medical assistant, nurse or resident.  I’m a PA.  If you want to know more about my profession, please ask me I am happy to speak with you about it.  But please, please do not ask me when I’m becoming a physician.  

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