I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor this past Monday. It is about a 45 minute to an hour drive (depending on traffic) to get to my doctor’s office. He’s worth it. I’ve gone to this doctor for many years and can’t imagine going to anyone else and that’s why I drive a ways to see him. He’s a
good great doctor. He’s caring and compassionate. He’s smart. He’s an excellent listener. And he’s a fantastic diagnostician. Not only will he work hard to get to the bottom of your problem and make you well, but he’ll pray for you too. That means a lot to me. I think the world of him.
I’ll just come right out and tell you though that I hate going to the doctor this time of year. It’s cold and flu season and the waiting room I have to wait in accommodates patients waiting for about eight different doctors and a laboratory. So needless to say, it’s a fairly large waiting room and it’s just about always full.
My appointment Monday was at 11 am. I signed in at 10:35 am. They had told me to come 20 minutes before my scheduled appointment time. I wasn’t sure why but guessed that since it was my first visit of 2019, that there would be paperwork to update and a new insurance card to copy. There was no paperwork update, check-in took all of 2 minutes, and I was told to have a seat.
I looked around, and there were some sick, sick folks waiting. Two people came in with masks on and I heard them say they were there for the lab to have flu testing done. Great. One of them sat down a few feet away and proceeded to remove her mask so she could blow her nose. She started coughing and I noticed she appeared flushed and feverish. I felt for the woman, I really did, but I wanted to get as far away from her as I could. My husband, a nurse, was home sick. He’s missed two days of work this week and this is a man who rarely calls in sick. I felt doomed.
Though I don’t consider myself a germophobe, doctor’s office waiting rooms can be scary places. I’m the one whose husband rolls his eyes at me when I meticulously wipe my grocery cart handles down with the antibacterial wipes. I’m the one who never leaves home this time of year without antibacterial hand sanitizer in my purse and Wet Ones® antibacterial hand wipes in my car.
At 11:45, the waiting room started thinning out since they don’t schedule appointments between 12 and 1 for lunch. Thankfully, I had bought a book that was keeping me enthralled. The receptionist who had checked me in, left for lunch at noon. When she returned at 1 pm, she looked a little surprised to see me still sitting there. She came out from behind the desk and confirmed what doctor I was there to see. Then she said she would go back to the back to see what the problem was. “They should have called you back by now,” she said. She was gone a while and came back out about 1:10 and told me that they would be calling me back as soon as they could get a room cleared.
I was called back at 1:20 and was seen by the doctor at about 1:40. I had waited 3 hours. I think that’s definitely the longest I have ever waited on a doctor. My doctor walked in, hugged me, and gave me a very sincere apology– said he was so sorry he had kept me waiting half the day, acknowledging that my time was valuable too.
In my earlier days, I would never have waited on a doctor that long. I would have left. I had two people tell me since Monday that they never would have waited that long on a doctor and would have walked out and rescheduled. They also told me they would never drive that far to see a doctor. I stayed because I was thinking of that 45 minute to hour drive I had made.
I vowed years ago to not complain too much when having to wait at a medical facility. Because I think back to an incident that happened when I was a practicing veterinarian. I was the sole veterinarian for the night shift (we stayed open until 10 pm to try to accommodate our working clients). Since we were the only veterinary practice in the area open that late at night, we stayed busy. Though we were not an emergency clinic we often got treated as one.
On this particular night, I was slammed with hit by car cases. I had had two dogs which were being treated for shock and getting fluids in the back treatment area. A new client walked in (meaning she had no appointment) who wanted her small dog’s ears checked. About that time I had the two dogs stabilized and was going to call her straight back, when an elderly man (who was a regular client and a good one at that) came busting in the waiting room door. He was covered in blood and when he saw me, he excitedly and anxiously motioned to the door and informed me that his dog, Bandit, had been hit by a car and was in bad shape in the back of his truck in our parking lot. He needed help getting Bandit in. I knew Bandit well. Bandit was a very large six month old black and white mixed breed dog and was sweet as could be. Bandit’s owner was distraught. He loved that dog. I loved Bandit too. I had completed Bandit’s puppy shots just 2 months previously. I remembered how healthy and happy he had looked at his last visit and how fast he was growing.
I called for the technician to grab the stretcher and out we went to retrieve Bandit. Bandit had been hit right in the head and face and had serious injuries. Both his upper and lower jaws were badly fractured, seriously displacing his teeth and muzzle. It was a bloody horror scene. We carried him through the waiting room on our way to the back and this “new client” who sat right by the door, witnessed the blood and the seriousness of the situation. She couldn’t have missed it.
Just a short time later, I was in the back still assessing and tending to Bandit when the receptionist came to the back to tell me that “the new client” was getting impatient and wanted to know how much longer she would have to wait. I told the receptionist to apologize to her, and to tell her that unfortunately emergencies happen, that we had a very critical case here and that it would be a while longer, perhaps another 15 or 20 minutes until I could get to a stopping place. If she couldn’t wait, then she was welcome to make an appointment for another time. She decided to wait. About 15 minutes later, when I did go into the exam room to see her, she appeared very angry and impatient and proceeded to tell me that she didn’t appreciate having to wait so long because, after all, she was a new client and was just there for an ear check. I was bowled over by her lack of compassion. I asked her if she had seen the injured dog who had been carried in on the stretcher. She said she had. I asked her had that been her dog on the stretcher injured and bleeding, wouldn’t she have wanted me to give it my undivided attention? That quieted her down. I explained that unfortunately emergencies happen and that emergencies always come first.
Because of that experience, I always try to be understanding while waiting at the doctor. Things happen. It’s cold and flu season and people are sick. Emergencies happen. Doctors get called to the phone. Some people have multiple problems and their visits unexpectedly take longer. Bad illnesses happen and emotions have to be dealt with too. So I tried to be patient on Monday despite my three-hour wait. I knew that because it was Monday, that they were probably having to work in patients who had gotten sick over the weekend. I also know that while this is considered a mild flu season, that there’s a ton of respiratory and G.I. viruses going around right now. Sometimes I do wish doctor’s offices could call ahead of time (if possible) and at least let you know that they are running way behind but that never seems to happen.
On the plus side, my doctor informed me I had lost five pounds since my previous visit (10 lbs. total which was my goal for this visit). My blood glucose was down considerably and my A1c had also come down. My blood pressure was up but I contributed that to the three-hour wait. He told me I had made great progress and to keep doing what I was doing. I plan to.
I’m just curious…. What’s the longest you’ve ever waited at the doctor’s office? The vet’s office?