When I arrived this afternoon I made sure to be there a few minutes ahead of my appointment time so I wouldn’t be “that patient” who ends up throwing off the whole schedule. As a family doc I know that the transition from waiting room to exam room can take a while, and adding that time to the few minutes many people run late can eat up precious time.
I greeted the receptionist. “Hi, I’m Andrea, here for my two o’clock appointment!” “Sign in, sit down,” she replied without looking up. Umm. Okay. So I signed my name and arrival time, found a magazine and a seat. Five minutes later the same receptionist, whose sign said “Martha,” called my name. She brusquely asked for my insurance card and gave me a questionnaire, shoving a clipboard at me. When I brought the papers back, she took them without a word.
I don’t get many chances to sit and read People magazine, so the first ten minutes of my wait were relaxing. As time crept by, and people who had arrived later were taken ahead of me, I began to suspect that my arrival had not been communicated, and worried since I had to pick up my child. Cautiously approaching Martha, I said, “Excuse me, I just wanted to check on how soon I might be seen.” She snapped: “As soon as he can,” and turned away.
Five minutes later, a nurse called my name. She was very pleasant, a refreshing change. When my doctor came in and asked how I was doing, I replied “Fine. But since I would want to know, I have to tell you that the experience in your waiting room was not ideal.” He asked what had happened, and then he got excited. Apparently this wasn’t the first time someone had complained about Martha. The doctor asked if I would be willing to talk to the office manager, and I said “yes,” but was surprised when he left immediately to go get her. Suzanne, the office manager, came in and my doc introduced us, almost crowing as he explained: “Andrea is a doctor, and she has some observations about Martha!” He then left us there so I could give feedback to Suzanne. As I sat there half undressed under a paper sheet.
She and I looked at one another, both a bit surprised. So I told her about how brusque Martha had been in the waiting room, and how it made me uncomfortable. We did not mention how uncomfortable the current situation had become. Maybe my doctor was so inured to half-dressed women that he didn’t think twice about the circumstances of this interaction. As for me, I left wishing I had just kept my mouth shut.