How Disneyland Helped Me Become a Better Doctor

Walt Disney is seen in the statue in front of the Magic Kingdom Castle located in Dineyland, CA, where I worked

I recently wrote about my experience working at Disneyland as a young teen.

I spent about 2 years there, in the outdoor vending department, selling a variety of items like popcorn, balloons, and ice cream, among other Micky Mouse-shaped paraphernalia. I had a great time while there. But there’s so much more to it than just that. I learned life lessons.

Those Disneyland years left me with an experience that’s invaluable to the way in which I practice medicine today. There is so much I absorbed from the everyday workings of this magical place, the tops of the Magic Kingdom Castle can be seen, in colorand I apply this to my clinical practice on a regular basis.

First and foremost is the happiness factor. The happiest place on Earth truly is just that. It is not only self-proclaimed, but also an absolute truth. Just stand at the entrance to the park and watch face by face light up as each shoves through the turn-style to get in. That kind of happiness is contagious.

black and white photo of a happy young lady, her back against the wall, hands holding each cheek, wearing sunglasses. She is laughing and looks genuinely happy.

In this same way, I believe a magical medical practice would blossom.

Arriving at the Magical Medical Practice

A patient who arrives ill is looking for nothing short of help. Why not brighten his day and make the process a bit easier by simply having an experience that shines?

It all starts at the front desk.

I know when I come to an office, I feel immediately better when I step up to a window and am greeted with the infectious smile of the receptionist.

At the doctor’s office, even more so.

Our patients are in a somewhat vulnerable state when they arrive at the office for a visit, and would like nothing more than kindness on our end. Imagine being greeted with an ear to ear smile by the front office staff, then escorted into the room, hand held gently by a kind medical assistant, only to then be addressed with enthusiasm by the nurse.

I’ll tell you something, I bet there would be less cases of white coat hypertension diagnosed.

A picture of me in my white doctor's coat, smiling warmly at the cameraFinish the experience off with a patient, lovable physician (unless he is having a bad day, as I wrote about in this blog post, as we all have had at these days no matter how much we try and fight it), maybe even one that gives you a hug (you can read about hugs given by doctors here), and you’ve got yourself a doctor’s visit that’s sure to go down in the books. A guaranteed return customer, or guest, as they refer to visitors at Disneyland. And all while the patient is sick!

Getting this treatment at a well visit? That automatically bumps up the ante! (It may even get your physician the chance at a decent review. Read about reviewing doctors here).

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Next comes giving guests the benefit of the doubt. In Disney, the guest was always right.

If the guest claimed to have dropped his popcorn, but had no proof, well, gosh darn it, at Disney we would believe him.

Merge this in to medicine.

Now, that comes with a bit of a grain of salt, as we cannot in the medical profession always cave to patient demands. In fact, we’ve had a developing crisis in the field, including the rise of antibiotic resistance and due partly to this exact issue of caving in.

Image of white headphones set against a pink background, meant to represent 'hearing'However, patients often simply wish to be listened to, to vent, and our role as the primary care providers is to lend them our ears. We can usually work out an agreement with our patients that satisfies both sides, while providing optimal medical care. This leaves our patient with that warm and fuzzy feeling, similar to the one we get from a great parent-teacher conference where our child is praised, and hopefully wondering when they will be coming back for yet another exciting medical encounter.

The doctor’s office automatically becomes the Happiest Doctor’s Office on Earth.


Third is accountability. Training is key in the initiation of Micky Mouse’s employees. We train at Disney University and even read through the Disneyland Handbook.

Rules are to be followed.

If a rule is broken, one must be accountable. When an incident occurs where a rule is broken, it is written up for the record, and discussed accordingly. Things should be the same in a medical practice. When we make mistakes in medicine, those need to be addressed, and prevented for future encounters.

It works across the board, from the front desk to medical assistants, to nurses, to the doctors themselves. We must all remain accountable for mistakes we make. It’s been proven that doctors are less likely to get sued (a Wall Street Journal article discusses this issue) when they apologize for their mistake, rather than sweep that mistake under the rug in an attempt to avoid confrontation.

So, you see, applying lessons I’ve learned as a young teen will likely serve me well in my years ahead as a primary care doc.

In fact, we can probably all use a little Disney in our lives, and in our professional careers, no matter what it is that we do.

Let’s bring in more infectious happiness into the workplace and watch the our businesses reap the benefits.

A beautiful stethoscope in rose gold, with a heart pin in rose gold as well, entwined in its center

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