As I gathered up my stuff before exiting the examining room I saw this sign above the table. I apologize for the fuzziness.

Sign urging patience in doctor's office

What a good reminder for impatient patients, eh? Stop for a moment to consider why the doctor might be keeping you waiting. Some day, that person who needs extra time could be you. True dat.

And yet . . .

The doctor and admin staff might not know in advance which patients require management of a potentially life-threatening issue: The chest pain that walked through the door this morning might be heartburn or a heart attack in process.

But they do know which patients routinely require extra assistance: the elderly, the disabled, and the folks who just usually do. They also know which patients have a newly diagnosed terminal condition — or even merely a serious condition — and who might, therefore, be reasonably expected to need counselling time.

This is another both-can-be-true situation. Patients should be, well, patient. And doctors should respect their patients’ time by not over-scheduling. By making some appointments longer, because they need to be, and by building some slack into their day to handle the unexpected.

Is that unfair, asking doctors to forego revenue by scheduling less than they can do if all goes well? Maybe. Maybe just as unfair as asking me and every other paid-by-the-hour worker to consistently wait for a doctor.

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10 Responses to Wait!

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Does this work?
    The impatient patient can be a big bother
    But so can the doctor or nurse for that matter.
    So please take a moment before you explode
    Everyone’s carrying some sort of load.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Yes, another good formulation. I don’t like waiting but I now go armed with book or knitting, and have never felt the impulse to explode. 🙂 But it does occur to me that there are “traffic management” techniques that could be put to use here, to mutual benefit. But who knows? Maybe they know their own business best . . .

  2. Marilyn Smith says:

    I get this. My own doctor (bless her heart) regularly schedules my appointments for an hour before I usually get in to see her. My counter-strategy was to call her office ahead of time to get an idea of how long my wait would be. Ninety-nine percent of the time, her secretary would say she was 45 -50 minutes behind schedule, so I just adjusted for that arrival time. It was frustrating but at least I wasn’t sitting there for an hour. On one occasion I got there just before my delayed expected time, checked in at the desk and stepped out briefly to use the rest room down the hall. When I came back, she was taking someone else in and said, “Well you weren’t here.” So, after adjusting my schedule for her delay, I waited…for 45 minutes. I’d recommend her to anyone, however.

    • Tom Watson says:

      You remind me of a time that a train shunting back and forth across a track cost me almost 20 minutes – it was the kind of situation that I had no way out of – and I arrived at the doctor’s office with 5 minutes to spare. But I was in a line behind four other people. By the time I got to the desk, it was 2 minutes past my appointment time. The receptionist said, “Your doctor was running ahead. Your name was called but you weren’t here!” So there I sat for another 20 minutes.
      Hard to win.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Tom – Running ahead? A sure sign of the Apocalypse. I admit that I prefer the COVID-19-driven protocols with doctors, where we start with a phone or Zoom call. No driving, no parking fees, and I get to wait in the comfort of my home office. And so far, everything but the annual skin scan has been handle-able over the phone. I hope we keep it.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marilyn – Thus illustrating again that consistency (in this case, of the doctor being late) is an under-appreciated virtue. And that efficiency isn’t everything in appreciating a doctor.

  3. I have encountered these frustrating situations in the past, but since COVID-19 struck our doctor has no “waiting room.” The room still exists but it is devoid of chairs, tables, and magazines, as well as the germ-ridden children’s corner of toys and books. The last time I drove my son there, we were asked to wait in the car in the parking lot. There is virtually no COVID-19 in our county. I was not allowed to accompany him, who had experienced a week of seizures and was far from his usual capacity for informing the doctor about anything. I happened to have written the doctor an informative letter, which I handed to reception before the rest of the scene unfolded. I, too, would recommend this doctor. On the other hand, I think a more flexible approach to patients depending on their problem is necessary. During a similar experience at a local hospital, I was under the impression that staff were taking advantage of pandemic conditions to offer a less comprehensive level of care.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Yes, we do seem to have fallen off one end of the safety continuum, as when our provincial government banned all family caregivers from nursing homes with pretty ugly results. There’s a place where “good enough” is good enough: in this case, maybe that meant all casual/occasional visitors excluded. Mind you, I’m glad I don’t have to be the one to make the exemption decisions. That’s a no-win scenario, too.

  4. Jim Robertson says:

    Many years ago, I had a specialist who used to book all his appointments for the same time and then take people in the order in which they arrived. Often patients waited over 2 hours.

    After catching on I spoke to the Doc about it, who claimed he didn’t know the receptionist was doing that. I said OK for future appts when speaking with the receptionist I would ensure she was not doing that and when she offered me an appointment at a specific time, I would accept it and told her I expected to be shown in based on that time, not based on some list she had of who arrived ahead of me.

    That worked a couple of times. Then it didn’t she was back to using the list; that time I noticed a husband and wife, who happened to be “of colour” who had arrived ahead of me, still sitting there when I was called in. I asked the receptionist where they were on the list, she mumbled, fumbled and said she must have missed them but insisted I go ahead. (They were 5-6 names head of me.)

    The doctor got a blast from me, he said was “dumbfounded” (like I believed him…). I spoke to the husband and wife on the way out to tell them what was going on.

    Specialist or not, I never went back to him. My GP no longer referred patients to him.

    The Medical association received a rather firm note from me.

    I have since been very wary of such schemes/scams, running into it only once more.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Well, good for you for complaining at source and the medical association. That’s amazingly bad practice.

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