By Anita Doberman: Columnist
I am a proactive patient. My family tells me I am a bit of a hypochondriac, but I just think I’m being thorough. I also have five young children, any one of whom is sick at any given time, so visits to physicians’ offices have become a part-time job.
From office to office, the waiting room wallpaper and chair arrangements may change (though they are usually the same), the posters and the color of uniform nurses wear may vary, but one thing remains constant: the wait.
I know. There are many reasons why doctors are late. There are unexpected emergencies, patients that need urgent care or have lots of questions, and insurance companies often only allow a short window per patient. But another part of me, my cynical side, thinks that doctors try to squeeze in as many people as possible to make more money, or that they arrived late from a golf game, or that they generally don’t see my time as being as valuable as theirs.
The truth is usually somewhere in-between. But regardless of the reasons for my wait, I often experience waiting room rage.
I typically arrive already frazzled from the drive, only minutes before my appointment time, and immediately ask the receptionist or nurse at the desk if there is a long wait. “About 15 minutes” means 30 minutes, or even an hour. “No, the doctor is on schedule” is more hopeful. It could mean only 15 to 20 minutes.
If I have my children with me, I try to settle away from everyone, and entertain them with the toys I brought along. Inevitably, they are not interested, and start making loud comments about other patients in the waiting area. “Mommy, what’s wrong with that lady?” or “That man has no hair!” Then they’ll want to look at the magazines — aka, tear pages out.
If I am alone, a much better scenario, I am disappointed to see the same magazines I read at my previous visit six months ago, and I try not to look insane as I stare at the closed door where patients disappear, waiting to hear my name called out.
Each time a nurse appears from that Promised Land, I look up, hopeful that she will say my name, and ask if she meant to call out ‘Doberman’ when she clearly said ‘Smith.’ When I finally get to the exam room I am drained from all that waiting and pent-up anger.
You’d think with all this experience waiting I would have come up with a solution. Unfortunately, I am not qualified to figure out a more efficient scheduling system. But, I can say with confidence, from a patient’s perspective, that a physician could and should at least say,
“Sorry you had to wait,” or extend a kind word. After all, our time is also valuable
As my grandmother often reminds me, the solution to many of our problems is kindness, and even an hour wait becomes a smaller
inconvenience, if the inconvenience is acknowledged.
In my case, I will also accept a lollipop or piece of chocolate to appease my waiting room rage — until next time.