What can we get the doctor for Christmas?

Dec. 1, 2001
It's difficult to buy a gift for someone who can have almost anything he wants.

It's difficult to buy a gift for someone who can have almost anything he wants.

Dear Dianne,
My co-workers and I are trying to agree on what to get the doctor for Christmas. It seems we go through this every year. I always want to spend about twice as much as my co-workers. My feeling is that the doctor is accustomed to receiving higher-priced gifts. I don't think he would appreciate something cheap. Furthermore, he is quite generous with us throughout the year, and this is our opportunity to show tangible appreciation.

It's difficult to buy a gift for someone who can have almost anything he wants. Can you give us some advice?
Generous in Greensboro

Dear Generous,
Selecting Christmas presents for some doctors can indeed be difficult. Our general feeling is that nothing we buy can measure up to the doctor's expectations.

One doctor I worked with collected carved birds by a local artist. So buying his Christmas gift was not difficult at all — until the artist passed away. Then, we had no clue what to buy for him. Even asking his wife for suggestions didn't help. I believe she was as stymied as we were.

In your particular situation, I am assuming the other staff members are assistants. Have you considered that you probably earn twice as much as they do? If so, wouldn't it be reasonable for you to spend twice the amount they spend on the doctor's Christmas present? I'm not suggesting this as the ultimate answer; however, you should consider the issue from an economic perspective.

You want your gift to be appreciated, meaningful, and tasteful. I submit that the gift does not have to be expensive to meet that criteria.

I polled several of my doctor friends to find out what they considered the best Christmas gifts their staffs ever gave them. Here are some of their replies:

  • "I don't expect or want my staff members to buy me anything. Each holiday, I remind my employees how lucky they are to be employed in our fine office. To have a loyal, dedicated staff is all I want."
  • "A $100 gift certificate at a bike shop, which covered a tune-up on my mountain bike."
  • "The staff (we have 18 employees) organizes a "Secret Santa" so that each person receives and buys only one gift. By doctors' orders they may not spend more than $75 per doctor (there are 3 of us). I usually get a sweater or shirt. "Debbie and Sara (the other doctors) get scarves, blouses, etc."
  • "We distribute our holiday bonuses two weeks before our holiday party so that everyone can purchase their presents and not feel strapped for cash."
  • "My staff is uncanny at getting me much-appreciated gifts. Over the last several years, I have received a gift certificate from Barnes and Noble; a gift certificate for three golf lessons; a case of premium beer; and a Civil War book."
  • "They always seem to find something I'd like, such as a Cleveland Indians shirt or some other thing that would be nice. "
  • "Last year they gave me a waterproof watch. I liked it a lot."
  • "A trip to Sea World to swim with the dolphins."
  • "My staff usually gets me clothing or movie gift certificates. I give them cash and a holiday lunch at a fine restaurant.
  • "We then go to my house and exchange gifts. I also give each of them a gag gift based on something they did during the previous year. For example, my hygienist ran over her purse with the car. So, I went to Goodwill and bought a tacky purse and dress. I ran over them with my car and presented her with a whole new ensemble!"
  • "We draw names and nothing can cost over $25. Sometimes we will buy one gift and put it in the pot to be drawn anonymously, making it part of a fun evening."
  • "We have stockings hung in the reception area, and staff only gives me what will fit in the sock — my wife's idea! (I give more generously.)"

And my favorite response of all:
"My gang has given me gift certificates to restaurants, to a ride and dinner on a restored local scenic railroad, and lately, to get therapeutic massages. But in truth, the best present I get each year is the fun of sharing a dinner outing with them along with their spouses or significant others. I sit with my wife watching them exchange 'grab' bag gifts with each other.

"Soon, I begin to feel like Old Fezziwig, the benevolent employer of the very young Scrooge before he (Scrooge) turned sour. The sheer fun of it, the true joy of being able to share in their pleasure, and the laughter and the good feelings — that tend to persist over the year, thank the Lord — are all the best Christmas gift I could ever want. 'Stuff' just doesn't do it, and isn't needed.

"If anything, it is slightly embarrassing because there isn't much that I really want. At this point in my life, the relationships are far more important and valued. When one of them brings in a bucket of homemade soup and shares a bowl with me and anybody else at the end of a long busy day — that is a real Christmas present, even if it happens to be in mid-July."

I feel we stress ourselves too much trying to figure out what to get the doctor for Christmas. Just be thoughtful, and remember — the joy comes in the giving, not receiving. Thoughtful gifts do not have to be expensive.

How many of you have told your doctor how much you appreciate him or her lately? How many of you have bragged on your doctor to a patient lately? How many of you are going to sit down and write a personal note on a Christmas card thanking the doctor for your Christmas bonus and expressing your appreciation for your job? Think about it.

Wishing you and yours a warm holiday,

Dianne D. Glasscoe, RDH, BS, is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant to dental practices across the United States. She is CEO of Professional Dental Management, based in Lexington, N.C. To contact Glasscoe for speaking or consulting, telephone (336)472-3515, fax (336)472-5567, or email at dglasscoe@ northstate.net. Visit her website at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com.