“I can fit you in at 9:40, 10:40, or 11:40 this morning, or at 1:30 this afternoon,” came the voice over the phone lines.
Thinking to myself, “I don’t have time for another doctor’s appointment,” I instead said, “Today’s schedule is pretty full. Do you have anything available next week?”
“If you rheumatologist asked you to see your primary care doctor, we’d like to fit you in today,” was the response.
I sighed. “Well, I can’t get there by 9:40, and 11:40 won’t work, so I’ll be there at 10:40 if it really needs to be today.” A little voice in my head nudged me: this is backward; usually the patient pushes for same-day appointments, and the doctor’s office says it isn’t possible.
As I hung up the phone, I sighed again. It seems like those same-day appointments should be saved for people who have an urgent problem needing immediate attention. I don’t. Nonetheless, I rearranged a few commitments, dropped my sons off so they could play racquetball instead of sit in a waiting room full of sick people, and then headed to my doctor’s office.
Arriving five minutes early, I signed in and sat down. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. People trickled in and the chairs filled. At 11:05 I asked the receptionist if she knew how far behind the doctor was running. Not that I care (or she ever knows), but there is a sign saying to ask:
By 11:20 I was wondering if I’d have to leave without seeing the doctor. At 11:30 I stood to ask the receptionist to reschedule me, but the door opened and a nurse called my name. I stepped into the hallway, away from eavesdroppers, and explained that I had somewhere else I needed to go and wasn’t sure if I should stay.
The internet is full of patients ranting about doctors who only schedule ten minute appointments, who will only address one problem per visit, and who feel that the doctor cuts them off when time is up. My doctor isn’t like that. Appointments are twenty minutes. All issues are addressed. There are no clocks in any exam rooms and the doctor takes as much time as is needed. That might explain why he was an hour behind schedule.
The nurse assured me that it should only be a little longer and showed me to an exam room. “I love the fact that he takes time with people instead of rushing,” I smiled, “But I have a 12:00 meeting. I’ll reschedule if I need to leave.”
Shortly after that, out in the hallway I overheard the nurse talking to my doctor. A few seconds later, there was a knock on the door and the doctor entered.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to start every day knowing that your carefully crafted schedule was really only a rough outline. I try to be flexible. My doctor has taken extra time with me, so I can’t get upset when he does it for someone else. It was hard, though, to allow a full hour of extra time and end up feeling rushed.