Not exactly what you want in a doctor’s office
My advice to you, Dear Reader, is this: Be your own advocate.
I had done all the right things. Confirmed my doctor’s appointment. Conferred with the nurse via MyChart regarding lab tests needed. Got my blood drawn early enough to have results for said appointment. And showed up for my appointment early.
The receptionist was friendly and efficient, as was the nurse who took my vital signs. All seemed according to plan until I was deposited in an examining room to await the doctor. Who never came.
My appointment was at 11. After the nurse left me in the small room, I never saw her again. I responded to posts on LinkedIn. I checked my email. I read some blog posts. I attempted to work on one of my own.
At 11:50, I sent my assistant a Teams message: “I still haven’t seen the doctor.” We exchanged some emojis. Then I said, “Now I’ll get the bum’s rush because he’ll want to go to lunch.” At 11:57, I sent a text to my husband: “Still waiting to see [the doctor].”
At 12:01, I replied to an email from my boss and said, “Still waiting for the doctor. Grrr. Might leave and reschedule.”
At 12:05 p.m., I decided enough was enough. I opened the door of the room to alert someone I was leaving.
I saw no one. The rows of desks and stations were empty. I knew the doctor was in the room beside me with a patient, as I had heard the drone of their voices for nearly an hour.
“Dear [Most Favorite Doctor — truly!],” I wrote on a Post-It note I found back in the examining room, “My appointment was at 11 a.m. It is 12:05 p.m. I need to return to work. Please reschedule me.”
That last sentence made me uneasy. In March, I had attempted to schedule my appointment for June — and many messages and phone calls later was given my doctor’s “first available” in August. Would an apologetic office create a timeslot to make up for my inconvenience? Or would I not see the doctor until 2022?
I stuck the Post-It to the outside of the door, noted the little white light that indicated a patient was waiting in the room, shrugged inwardly, and left. I hoped to pass a human at the checkout desk so I could tell someone why I was leaving.
And that was where I made my mistake.
Really, just leave
No one was there. So instead of outwardly shrugging and making my exit, my conscientious self wove her way among the vacant cubicles and aisles until she stumbled upon a lone nurse eating her lunch.
“I’m sorry for interrupting,” I said because I am both conscientious and polite. “But my appointment was at 11, and I still haven’t seen the doctor. I’ve got to return to work. I just wanted to let someone know.”
My friends, if this is ever you, say it, remain calm and leave. Don’t burst into tears and add, “I’m sure the other patient has more important matters that demand his time. I’ll reschedule.”
Even the mask you’re wearing won’t hide the distress you didn’t realize you felt.
This staff member said she would get the doctor. I said no, I would just reschedule. But the tears on my face betrayed me, and she went and got the doctor. Only my doubt that their system could reschedule me in a timely fashion rooted my feet where they were.
Moments later, my doctor called me back to the examining room. He apologized, said he had an involved patient and wasn’t aware he had others and then went through the series of questions he always asked.
Say what’s on your mind
My Friend, if you find yourself in this situation — having failed to walk away when you could do so with dignity — then be your own advocate. Ask questions. Insist on a thorough exam. Make the most of your hard-fought win, a face to face with your doctor.
Don’t become speechless. Don’t forget to address any concerns or questions you had had or struggle to hide your tears. Don’t squash your emotions or concerns as unimportant and waste precious moments worrying that your doctor might notice them. This is your moment.
The appointment fled past in record time. Medical conditions the doctor had rehashed religiously at each appointment — even though I’d had no recurrence of symptoms — he decided to remove. A prescription that had required me to return to see him every six months he extended for a year.
“That way you can come back to see me in one year instead of six months,” he said. “That’s my reward for making you wait so long.”
Oh. My reward for poor customer service was no service for a year?
My time with him for this visit was less than 15 minutes.
In truth, my experience with the doctor’s office was like Ralphie’s trip to the mall to see Santa Claus in “A Christmas Story.” (If you haven’t seen the movie, Ralphie wants nothing but a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. You can view the scene in the link I provided, in which he visits the mall Santa.)
Ralphie had anticipated his visit, planned his request, waited in line for what seemed like forever, and then was speechless as the elves and Santa mechanically put him through their motions before escorting him to his sliding exit.
Except Ralphie came to his senses and worked his way back to the top of the slide to say what he really wanted. I didn’t.
By the time I made my way to my car, my eyes were dry, my faith in the health system was a bit cold. I drove my half-hour back to work. How would I respond to the customary survey the office sends me after a visit?
Well, my Friends, I haven’t received one — yet. Or a bill, actually. So maybe I’m still the patient who was forgotten.
The next morning, as I jotted my thoughts and prayers in my journal, I recounted my experience at the doctor’s office. When I asked God what He wanted to say to me, this is what He said:
“I love you, my child, and though your favorite doctor failed you yesterday, know that I never fail. I see you and am well aware of the times appointed for you. Yesterday’s experience? Just consider it blog fodder.”
I could imagine God winking as He said that. So the above? Just following God’s instructions.
But for you, Dear Reader, follow mine. Should you experience poor customer service in a doctor’s office or elsewhere, don’t do as I did. Be your own advocate.
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