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August 6, 1982


JAMA. 1982;248(5):590. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330050072039

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It used to be simpler to greet a patient—a smile, a handshake, and a few words of introduction made everyone comfortable. Now I find myself analyzing all available demographic data on my patients in an attempt to anticipate how they will shake my hand.

Although I am young in years and in attitudes, my handshake is very traditional. I extend my hand, fingers forward, hoping to grasp most of my patient's hand in a brief but gently firm grip. Lately, as often as not, I find my patient's thumb in my hand.

Apparently, several forms of the nontraditional handshake exist. I infer this from my seeming inability to establish any kind of linkage with some patients. Our hands collide like rocks, then tumble over one another until some appendage of one is captured by the other.

Sometimes my patient aborts the handshake even before contact is made. On these occasions