Work Stuff

Patience: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That – Or Alternatively Title – Waiting for the Doctor

I’m not sure I can write about this topic without coming off as preachy because it REALLY STEAMS MY BROCCOLI, but I feel like it should be addressed and discussed:

Waiting to see the doctor at the doctor’s office.

Believe it or not, making you wait for your appointment is not some evil plan we concoct to torture you - people will be people.
Believe it or not, making you wait for your appointment is not some evil plan we concoct to torture you – people will be people.

First of all, I read this Huffington post and that was my first mistake. I should never have clicked on the link because everything about Huffington Post rubs my last nerve – their mentality, or overall premise, is this is what we believe, therefore it’s the only way to believe, and if you don’t agree we’re right, or you dare to offer an opposing view, you’re racist/homophobe/sexist … blahblahblah

*eye roll*

But secondly, I’ve had a pretty hellacious week and nothing irritates me more than people who can’t wait ONE COTTON-PICKIN SECOND while I’m literally running my ass off (I achieved 6,000 steps by 3:00 PM on Monday) so that I can try and get people shown back to rooms in a timely manner.

For the love of God, you had to wait 20 minutes to be shown back, CHILL.

Okay, look, it’s super annoying to have an appointment at the doctor’s office at 11:00 and not be seen until 11:45. And before I started working for a doctor, I felt the same … wait a minute, no I didn’t. Because I had patience. Because I know people will be people and I always took a book, or something, to occupy myself because time never moves more slowly until you have nothing to do.


I can’t speak for what goes on in other doctor’s offices, but I can tell you what goes on in my doctor’s office and possibly, just possibly, something similar may be going on at your doctor’s offices, too.

Before I present the doctor’s office side of things, let me preface this rant by saying, yes, there ARE doctors who take their sweet time and you end up waiting on them – a lot. But consider this, they’re spending a lot of time with their patients, which means, your turn will come, and then, when it’s your turn, and your doctor spends time with you, thereby making other people wait,  will you be as irritated?

Or, another doctor has called for a consultation on a tough case. Or, the doctor is studying films and preparing to give good/bad news to another waiting patient. Or, they are filling out test results. The point it, doctors are busy doing something. They aren’t just sitting around waiting for us to give them charts to review.

Or in my specific case, my doctor is a surgeon, which means he has patients in the hospital, recuperating from surgery. So the nurses taking care of those patients call us A LOT with medication questions, or updates, or God forbid, problems, or to tell us the patient’s family has arrived and would like to speak to the doctor because they have questions.

What’s he supposed to do, ignore those patients because we have patients in the waiting room ticked off because they weren’t shown back ON THE DOT?

Here’s the thing: we live in an INSTANT GRATIFICATION and IT’S ALL ABOUT ME society. I want it NOW. I want it PERFECT. I don’t want to WAIT FOR ANYTHING. I don’t want to be INCONVENIENCED in any way because I’m special and three minutes is just too long to wait my turn, damn it!

*eye roll*

Here’s something that people forget: Healthcare, Medicine, is not a one-size-fits-all industry. You’re not getting your oil changed, you’re not going in to get your tires changed, healthcare is not a precise process.

Far, FAR, from it.

It’s a personal, and oftentimes, embarrassing and intimate process. You are seeking help from a professional about your most bothersome issues. Issues that are preventing you from comfortably living your life from day-to-day. Every problem is different. Every person having an issue is different. Loved ones are concerned and need more explanation. Patients have been given bad news and are in denial – it takes a few minutes for the bad news to sink in and then more time to answer any/all questions patients/loved ones have every right to ask. Patients have the right to be educated about a specific condition/treatment – THAT. TAKES. TIME.

Would you rather have a doctor step in, take one look at you, maybe do a quick exam, give you a diagnosis, then step out without really speaking to you, or treating you like a human being? Because that’s precisely what needs to happen in order for him to run EXACTLY on time. Perhaps doctors need to treat people more like cars – as emotionless objects who simply need a part replaced now and again.

Call me crazy, but somehow, I don’t think people would appreciate being treated that way.

There are different types of doctor’s schedules: first come, first serve, cluster scheduling, (you schedule all well patients, all sick patients), and wave scheduling, (you schedule three patients per hour). There are more, but I can’t think of them right now.

My doctor operates under the wave scheduling. Yes. Our template schedules three patients per hour. And here’s why: Two spots may be for new patients and one spot may be for a recheck patient. (Patients who come back for an ongoing issue, or as a check-up to make sure they are doing well after surgery). My doctor likes this type of schedule because while his PA is interviewing the new patient, he can go in and see the recheck. Then, the recheck appointment concludes, the PA comes out and gives him details about the new patient, he reviews the new patient’s films, then goes in and speaks with the new patient.

We’re all helping patients throughout various stages of the appointment all day. Then, on the half hour, we have a post-op patient come in. The PA sees the post-op patient, takes out his/her staples/sutures, makes sure the wound is healing properly, prescribes more pain meds if necessary, then sends Mr/Ms Patient on his/her way.

This all sounds efficient on the surface, and yes, it is, WHEN EVERYTHING RUNS PERFECTLY AND THERE ARE NO HICCUPS. But guess what, remember that little detail I brought up earlier? We’re dealing with people, and people are not one-size-fits all.

You have the chatty ones.  You have the ones who are in more pain than others and require more TLC/attention, you have the ones who ask a lot of questions, or the weepy ones who need a moment to compose themselves.

The patients who drive me nuts are the ones who bitch because they’ve had to wait 30 minutes to be shown back to a room only to take up my time when I room them by telling me more than I need to hear, or whining about this or that, or bitching because he/she is in pain and what – suddenly those patients we left in the waiting room are just supposed to somehow magically get shown to their rooms? Who do you think rooms them?!? But I guess it’s okay if THEY wait because you have my attention now and damn it, you’re going to take your sweet time.

And then I rush/rush/rush around to hurry and bring the next patient back, sweating and dying of thirst because I have to literally gulp down a swallow or two of water because I’ve been talking so much only to be greeted by snotty, holier than thou pissants who are ticked off and annoyed because I didn’t show them back to their room ON THE DOT.

Newsflash! Look around – you’re not the only person waiting to see the doctor. Take a moment to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, they deserve attention, too.

*takes a breath*

And then there’s the doctor, who is trying to explain to the patient what is going on with his/her body and his recommendations. Then the ball is thrown to the nurse who follows up with the patient by making appointments for more testing, or surgery, so that the patient leaves with a plan.

This process takes time. This process works. This process is efficient. And it takes finesse because we’re trying to get all of this accomplished in a timely manner without the patient feeling like we’re rushing him out the door.

Because then we hear about that, too.

We can’t win, we truly can not win. We are trying our best to provide the best, most thorough and precise care we possibly can. And if people were more like machines, your wait time would be less, but people are not machines and we refuse to treat them as such.

Contrary to popular belief, doctor’s do not schedule more than they can handle. Doctors approve templates that will move the maximum number of patients in/out and be the most efficient use of their time. Yes. Part of the reason is compensation, doctors care about people, but it’s also how they make their momey, but the other reason is because there are way more patients out there than doctors in our world nowadays and if they scheduled one patient per hour, true, there would be little to no wait times when it came to the appointment, but then it would take MONTHS to get IN to SEE the doctor. Is that a better solution?

So yes, you’re going to have to wait when you go to the doctor’s office.

But if you truly want quality care, isn’t it worth the wait?