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Why I Wish Doctors Gave Stickers to Adults, Too

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“All doctors should have stickers. Even if they only treat adults.” This is what I posted on social media after a recent visit to the doctor. And I mean every word of it. All doctors need to have stickers.

Growing up with cerebral palsy, the “rewards” from the doctors made the visits tolerable. I have so many memories getting blow pops from my neurologist and stickers from my orthopedic surgeon’s nurse. And as I grew, the importance of those rewards never went away. I went so far as to decorate my old computer and my TI-84 graphing calculator in high school with all my stickers to remind myself of my journey.

As an adult, I returned to see a new orthopedic surgeon as my former doctor and his awesome nurse retired a few years ago. This new doctor didn’t have stickers. The doctor the new orthopedic surgeon referred me to for Botox injections didn’t have stickers either when I asked.

As a 28-year-old, it seems like a little sticker should be meaningless. Coming home with a Disney princess or Star Wars sticker doesn’t seem like much. Until it is.

Rewards don’t just work for little kids. As a kid, each blow pop and each sticker took away the edge of going to the doctor a little bit. And I could use that same boost now as I start to attend these appointments alone without my mother as she did all those years as I grew up.

As quirky as it sounds, I’d love to start a sticker collage poster of all the appointments I attend by myself as an adult. These would be a visual reminder that I can and do hard and scary things. These stickers would represent all the times I pushed myself to do what’s right for my body and not what’s easier for my mind (also known as staying home and avoiding everything).

So yes, even if doctors only treat adults, stickers (or other reward items) should still be offered or at least available if asked. These badges of courage could be the boost someone needs to get through the day after an appointment.

Originally published: October 18, 2021
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