A Tricky Situation: When to Accept or Refuse Gifts from Patients

We can’t deny it—the holiday season is officially in full swing. That means store lines will be clogged with well-wishers and gift-givers stocking up on last minute presents. But what should you do if one of your patients is in those lines with a gift for you?

Then it gets a little problematic.

So here are some things to consider before simply accepting the present.

  1. Is it something clearly inappropriate for a dentist-patient relationship?
    If you’d feel awkward showing it to the rest of the staff, it’s alive (you can buy your own pets), or seems too good to be true thank your patient for thinking of you and then let them down gently. It’s not worth the potential problems for you to accept.
  2. Is it overly expensive?
    Even if you know your patient is well off, accepting a gift that clearly cost a lot of money can lead to issues. You may feel indebted to the patient and be tempted to give them preferential treatment. Or more likely you’ll know you can’t treat them any differently, but they will feel like they deserve to be held above other patients because of their generosity. Either way it’s a slippery slope you don’t want to go down.
  3. Is it an ordinary gift you would feel comfortable accepting from a friend you see on occasion?
    If the gift is something smaller, such as a book or restaurant gift card, you really don’t need to worry about it. So, enjoy the token of gratitude, thank them sincerely, and pride yourself on knowing you do a good job taking care of your patients.

Patient/doctor guidelines for giving/receiving gifts of gratitude.
Caution Urged over Patient Gifts.