When are you Dr. versus Mr./Mrs./Miss?

I try to keep a pretty solid wall between my two identities. When I’m outside the office, I’m not happy about suddenly having to change hats.

I run into patients at restaurants and stores, like everyone else. Most of the time, we just exchange waves or nods. (I’m sure some of them don’t want to acknowledge me, either.)

But there are always those who consider catching me in public as a chance to get their questions answered or meds refilled without having to call the office, and don’t care if the whole establishment hears them.

I’m pretty much blind without my glasses, so, unless asleep, I am never without them. My wife has learned that when I suddenly take them off in public, it means I’ve sighted a patient I don’t want seeing me. It’s the easiest way to quickly change my appearance.

Some will still recognize me and come over with questions, descriptions, new symptoms, or concerns about what they saw on TV, read on the Internet, or heard from a lady at the store. Provided that nothing is urgent, I tell them that, at the moment, I’m not Dr. Block. I’m Dad, or husband, or basketball fan. I suggest they call my office with their questions, and Dr. Block or his staff will get back to them. Most will, though I’ve had a few get angry and accuse me of being unreasonable or uncaring.

I don’t really care. Like everyone else, I have at least two personas (work and home) and try to keep them as separate as possible. Part of it is for practical reasons, but mostly, it’s personal. None of us want to be in the doctor role at home, or in the home persona while seeing patients.

I ask patients and family to respect this. I don’t like getting the non-urgent texts or calls from my kids when I’m at the office, either. There I’m trying to focus on patients and their problems, and distractions aren’t welcome.

We each draw this line somewhere, depending on our own comfort level. You can’t be both all the time. It’s bad for your sanity.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.