The Trials of Patient-ly Waiting

26 Oct

It’s been an hour since my scheduled appointment time and I sit staring at walls. I’m listening to conversations, kids playing/crying, cell phones obnoxiously ringing, and if I could watch paint dry on those very walls, I’d be doing that as well. I often wonder what the point is in having a 2:45 appointment if you’re not going to see the doctor until after 5? And why then only see me for 5 to 10 minutes? My time is just as valuable as the next person and I assure you, I’d much rather be doing something more productive and entertaining than sitting around seeing soap operas on the television or counting the many patients waiting ahead of me. Plenty of time, I suppose, to read a magazine or book.

I realize that a doctor’s office is much like any other ‘public’ service. However, it’s no wonder why people become disgruntled with patient care and often resort to simply not going to the doctor’s office. I’m in a fortunate position where I have benefit time and so I don’t lose any pay while waiting for hours. But others aren’t so lucky. The fact is, no one likes to wait (more so when they’re ill) and while the sign stating that patiently waiting is appreciated, it also makes me think that it’s so commonplace it’s to be accepted and expected. With all that waiting it’s no wonder people bring meals with them, conduct business, and do any number of things that in years gone by would have been more taboo.

The benefit to going to the doctor when you’re only in need of a checkup or something minor is that you don’t have to sit for hours in an area with people hacking, sneezing, and coughing beside you and you feeling the same way. It’s moments like those where I wish there was a quarantine room with beds for those unfortunate enough to have to drag themselves to the doctor’s office only to have to sit sniveling and aching in the waiting room. I write this rant almost an hour into waiting for a doctor who would be in ‘in a few minutes.’ As I sit partially unclothed in an examination room more than two hours since my appointment time I wonder, is this what patient care has come to?

I sit patiently, waiting for my time in the queue, wishing that I were almost anywhere else. Heck, I’d rather be at work than here. If one is to make lemonade of the situation, I’ve written two articles in the time I’ve been made to wait. I’ve methodically tapped away on my iPad. As a saving grace I suppose you could say that the doctor’s office is where you can get work done uninterrupted, read a book, or as I previously mentioned, catch up on your soaps.

Some of the problems, I assume, lay in double or triple bookings or just being unrealistic in assessing how many patients one can comfortably see in one day. I say comfortably as it relates to the doctor who must consult and document and the patient who needs efficient specialized attention. In a small town such as this it could also be because of the seeming shortage of specialized services. Trust me when I say that I see an assortment of doctors and that with few exceptions I have to wait on average 45 minutes just in the waiting room plus another 10 to 30 minutes in the examination room. So is that to say the really good doctors make you wait hours while the others don’t?

What can be done, besides also bringing a meal with you, when visiting a doctor’s office? Am I the only one that experiences this? Or do I notice more because I go to the doctor’s office more frequently than most? I liken the experience to my prior visits to the hair salon. As a woman of color (light mocha to be exact), I dreaded the monthly trip to the hairdresser. Once a month like clockwork I’d block off an entire Saturday. The perm/touch up process would take up to 8 hours. This was my routine for over a decade. As a result of growing weary of the whole ordeal and because of its expense, I shaved all my hair off. At least I discovered I have a cute head. But what does one do when it comes to being at the doctor’s office? It’s not like there are any other realistic options than to do as the sign says and patiently wait.

This article appeared on page 5A in the 10/26/11 issue of The Union-Recorder.


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