I have just walked out on the second health care appointment in two days. It is NOT because I have a beef with the care that I receive. I have great respect for the professionals I have chosen. It is just that I have had it with medical office wait time. I am rebelling! I am standing my ground! I am finding my voice! I am saying NO!
Why is it that their time is more important than mine? Why? Because healthcare workers are in a noble service to all mankind? Okay, but cocky! Because healthcare can involve emergencies that require patience of all those waiting as the situation is attended to? True – but these situations do not happen enough to excuse chronic late appointments. Because, in the crazy economic environment of healthcare, they are forced to see more and more patients in less and less time? Yeah, yeah, I know…stop your bitching!
NO! Your time is NOT more important than my time. I say this with some background in the field. I have been a nurse for close to 40 years. I understand the processes.
I absolutely loathe going to a health care appointment. I detest being on the other side of healthcare. Why? Because of the consistent impersonal approach to very personal issues. And because of the general lack of empathy or common courtesy.
It starts with the very first step into the waiting room. In one of my professional’s offices, this is a somewhat typical visit scenario: I walk in to an area reminiscent of the Department of Transport with its waiting queue – a highly impersonal space.
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As every eye of every waiting patient is upon me, I make my way up to the reception desk. I sign-in on the clipboard posted precariously on the narrow ledge, then make my way to a standard office chair. The piles of old magazines are left relatively untouched as everyone is staring at the screen of their smartphone, checking mail, playing Candy Crush, posting on Facebook.
The sound of the window sliding across the runner interrupts our uncomfortable silence. Then a disembodied hand quickly snatches the clipboard, notes the patient arrival, returns the clipboard to its perch, then slides the glass back. I am briefly reminded of Thing from the old television show The Addams Family.
And then I wait. And then I wait some more. And then I use my smartphone to Google typical wait times for medical visits. And then I get annoyed and I feel disrepected! I cull myself from the herd and knock on the gatekeeper’s window. I say “My appointment was at 2. What is the problem?” The two keepers of the schedule look confused. What did I mean? “It is now 2:30, is there a problem?” I try again. “Oh, no there is no problem…let me go check”. Within the minute the medical assistant is calling my name from the side door. And then I wait. The sliding glass opens again and a front office staff member peers out of the window like the clerk at a fast-food restaurant drive-thru, calls my name and hands me a “Review of Systems” form. “Nothing has changed” I say. “We still need you to complete this”. “But I was here yesterday,” I snort. She smiles. I irritably complete the form, striking one line down the NO columns instead of checking each one (what a rebel I am!).
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I am now beyond the waiting room. I have entered the inner sanctum, the secret areas behind the frosted glass windows, with its standardised “system”. It doesn’t matter what I am there for, or the fact that I was there just the day before, the system starts by getting me weighed (UGH!), then marched into a treatment room where the medical assistant sits at a desk…this is important…with her back to me. She lobs questions backward as she completes the standard paper form. “No, my meds have not changed since I was here yesterday,” I say to her spine. Then she turns to me, attempts to stick a long thermometer probe directly into my mouth (which I take from her and put it in myself), fills out the form; takes my pulse (which by now is angrily racing), fills out the form; takes my BP and fills out the form. “Dr. So-and-So will be here shortly,” she informs me as she leaves me to the cool room with the overly large supply of old magazines.
However, Dr. So-and-So is not there shortly. Was the overloaded magazine pile a harbinger?
Yesterday I was in the waiting room for 25 minutes past my appointment time. No one told me that my physician was running late. No one offered to reschedule in case the added minutes might have posed a problem for me. My waiting room delay was followed by 30 minutes in the treatment room. No one checked on me. No one peeked their head in to say “Sorry for the delay, she will be with you in just a couple more minutes.” So, I walked out.
Today, at another office, when checking in, the staff member took an inordinate amount of time clicking through the schedule on her computer. Then she said “Will you excuse me for just a minute? I need to check something”. Upon her return to her station, she said “I just wanted to make sure it was okay to double book So-and-So” “Why double-book? I have had this appointment scheduled for three months,” I query. “Well, you see, we have a new computer system…yada, yada, yada”. At no time was I told that because of the “double-booking” that I would have a bit of a wait, although, smart girl that I am, I did anticipate one. No one offered to reschedule me.
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After 45 minutes (15 minutes of normal anticipated time, followed by 30 minutes of okay, they had a computer issue so I will be patient time), I returned to the front desk and asked how much longer. “They say it should only be another 30 minutes” ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? “You see, we have a new computer system…yada, yada, yada” “Yes, I was told that and because of that, I have patiently waited 45 minutes from my scheduled time. An additional 30 minutes is outrageous.” So…NO.
Let the revolution begin!
Originally published here