All kinds of people choose the healing arts, just like any other field of endeavor. Some of them are unsavory characters and some just make bad choices in critical areas of their lives. Patients expect a higher level of behavior from those to whom they entrust their care.


The research a medical doctor performed for a major drug company was called into question after he was arrested on his front lawn, brandishing a gun, naked except for underwear that hid his cocaine along with his private parts.


An orthodontist was convicted of molesting young girls and went to prison. Because he lost his license and could no longer work, he applied for disability insurance. Denied.


A popular pain center became a haven for drug abusers to get prescriptions for hundreds of narcotic painkillers. The doctor was discovered and sent to prison.


The doctor spent countless hours in the office; the hectic schedule of practice took a great toll on his marital relationship. Pretty soon the doctor found staying late at work was better than the constant harassment at home. The office manager soon became his love interest and eventually the wife of the unsettled practitioner.


Stories like these are played out in too many lives, and there are many other areas in which character flaws ruin the lives of health-care providers. Substance abuse and insurance fraud have destroyed many careers. Without question, these criminal acts are reprehensible. Reputation is tainted and ability to continue in professional practice becomes doubtful. Fortunately, not too many health-care professionals act out criminal behaviors. Those who engage in such activities should be removed from the system.

There are moral lapses that won’t land you in prison, but that will deeply affect reputation. While character may not appear to be a component of bedside manner, it is most definitely an integral factor. Sex and money are the two biggest areas of ethical and moral conflict.

It’s easy to fall prey to your ego and the power that comes with your position. Making inappropriate advances to patients or accepting such advances puts you in jeopardy. If you have affairs with patients, you risk losing your spouse (if you have one), your license, your wealth, and your dignity. If you must fulfill sexual needs, do it outside of your office.

Involvement with staff has ruined many marriages and once-successful practices. It is easy to succumb to desire when you work many hours away from home. Staff who may admire you or are searching for wealth and station afforded by professional association can often entice you towards unethical conduct. It is best to keep your professional relations at a distance and avoid too much informality.

You can be a great salesman and have a fabulous bedside manner, but if you sell things the patient doesn’t need or can’t afford, you lack ethics. The area of cosmetic practice lends itself to such abuse with the promise of even better results if you only consider this other procedure. Prolonging treatment for months beyond necessity makes patients question your integrity.

An unhappy patient: “After feeling completely improved, the doctor told me I needed to continue having the adjustments. When I asked him when I would be able to stop, he told me that to maintain my good health I should consider having these adjustments throughout my life. I never went back.”


The astute patient may discover billing for procedures that weren’t performed when they show up on insurance statements. While some patients may believe their best interest is at heart, others will have a justifiable loss of trust. In time, most practitioners who put sales above need and income above integrity are discovered.

If your staff respects you and values their employment, their admiration projects to the patients. By attracting and retaining great staff, your practice runs better and time spent training new hires is greatly reduced. Disgruntled employees should be weeded out and dismissed. There is nothing more counterproductive to developing a great bedside manner than to be surrounded by people who undermine it by speaking negatively about the doctor, and being miserable, curt, or aloof to patients.

Pay your staff a descent wage and provide good benefits. Be fair in resolving disputes between staff members and between staff and patients when a conflict arises. Never berate staff or talk to them in a condescending manner. If they are so inept that you feel the necessity to scold them, they should be dismissed. Treat all of your team with respect and dignity.

Don’t forget your staff on holidays (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Secretaries Day, Assistants Day). Flowers, candy, a tray of cookies, tickets to the movies or theater, and even an office outing go a long way toward showing appreciation for the people who help make your life better.



• Bruno Azevedo (2022/10/19 07:24)
I have worked with great mentors and great professionals throughout my life. As a radiologist, it was not uncommon for referring doctors to ask me to modify my reports to not include information perceived as detrimental to the referring dentists. For example- Once an endodontist, who sent me a cbct scan with a falling number 3, asked to remove from the report the part that said there was not visible endodontic filling material within the MB2. I denied and he never worked with me again. I was also badly mistreated when I as a graduate student in texas. My former program director used to harassed all the foreign students by threatening to cancel their students\' visas if we didn\'t do extra work for him.
• Julie Brann (2022/10/18 20:42)
Before dental school, I was an assistant and was told I would be trained on the job as I had no experience. I was a horrible assistant because I wasn\'t trained and the dentist would scold me in front of patients and patients noticed. Patients would complain to the front desk that she was mean to her assistants. I think your character is very important and it is easy to be nice to your patients but if you are rude to your staff, then it will show and you will probably lose some patients as well--even if you have the best clinical skills. I think it is very important that you treat your staff with respect and if they are happy they will tell everyone.
• Ben (2022/10/18 20:20)
I am fortunate to have the moral fortitude and foundation to not succumb to any of the offenses you have mentioned in this post. I will say that in today\'s crazy world, unfortunately, a decent wage and good benefits will not guarantee the retention of a good employee. It\'s a sad reality that many business owners are forced to put up with poor workplace performance and behavior because a replacement is too hard to come by. I have also been told that employees often do not appreciate good benefits and would rather be paid a higher wage than be offered benefits. I would appreciate a conversation regarding bonuses and wage increases for employees.
• Toni (2022/10/18 11:33)
As healthcare providers, character and our core values are very important. There are many stressors associated with the dental field, but we must remain steadfast in maintaining our character. I also especially liked the reminder to show our staff appreciation, because they really are the people that makes our lives better. We spend so much time with our work family, maybe sometimes even more time than our own families, and it is so important to show appreciation.

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