Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Late Doctor. Bad Doctor!

Well, this is the repetitious complaint that sent my fingers flying over the keyboard. (I got an A in my high school typing class. We typed on old IBM ribbon typewriters. Yes, I’m not a youthful doctor’s wife looking at my future life through rose colored glasses. I'm living it! And it's not all rosy.)

"Why is my doctor ALWAYS LATE?!"

This one question could be the genesis for a novel. Shondra Rhimes could start a whole new television series based on this question. So, instead of boring you with a novel of reasons, let me paint the different scenarios that are going on behind the scenes ALL THE TIME:
  1. A patient came into my husband’s clinic who needs a CT/angio/ultrasound. STAT! HE (not a MA, NP, or RN or NA) has to write the order, call the department, schedule, and document. NO, NO ONE ELSE CAN DO IT FOR HIM!
  2. He was called into the OR because, someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter was bleeding out and needed his expertise. When it’s your family member, will you be thinking of the poor soul who is waiting for the doctor in his clinic?
  3. He is taking his time educating another patient about their health, so they can make an educated decision as to their future medical course of action. If your problem is as serious, he will take the same time with you.
  4. He is winding down the appointment before you...”Your wound is looking good Mr. Joe Shmoe. Keep cleaning it and changing the dressing. Is there anything else I can do for you today?” “Oh, yes, Doc H! I almost forgot! My wife’s been asking me to show you this lump.”
  5. His schedule is booked solid for two weeks, yet the clinic/office squeezes you (and others) in within the next 24 or 48 hours, due to insurance “doctor access” rules.
  6. You are a VIP (very important patient) along with the....wait for it.....THOUSANDS (not hundreds) of other patients he must care for. So, when you bump into us around town, he may not remember your name, but I can assure you he can list your current or last ailments on your last clinic visit. 
  7. It’s clinic day, but a colleague from a different department, needs his opinion on  a rare case and treatment is time sensitive
  8. But you say, “I booked the first appointment in the morning and he was STILL late!” Yes, because he was operating on someone’s child all night long. He got in bed at 6am and over-slept 30 minutes when his alarm went off at 7:30am. 
  9. His patient of over 10 years was admitted to the hospital last night while you were sleeping. Despite being “off” last night, he felt the need to go in and check on his patient and ended up staying longer than expected talking with and reassuring his family members. He is working on 4 hours of sleep.
  10. He has slept only 6 hours over the last 36 hours. Many, in other professions, would simply call in sick, or head in to the office late after sleeping in. He may be late, but he is there for you.
I’m going to end it at 10 reasons today. I’ll continue on as time allows me. Doctor's wives don’t just sit around eating bon bons all day while polishing our diamonds. I’ll leave that story for another day.

In the meantime, PLEASE remember... My husband and his colleagues work themselves to the bone for you, his patient. Cut him some slack. I promise you, he is not running late because he doesn't value your time, or your schedule. He hates running late as much as you do.  It means he won't make it home in time to eat dinner with his family or worse, see his kids (and wife) before bedtime.


  1. Ya know, this really brings a great perspective. I know that I have been guilty of accusing my doctor, in absensia of course, of not being committed to my health care because he is: a) late for my appointment, or b) not as quick as I would like in responding to my emails. But as you point out, being lax about my care is likely not what's going on. When we are sick, we seem to feel that our needs should come first. That our ailment deserves the most prompt attention. We forget that our doctor is responsible for ALL the patients under his/her care, not just us. Thanks for showing the other side of the coin. It's an important perspective.

  2. Ugh - or the worst one: The patient before you was LATE, and instead of telling that patient to reschedule, the doctor squeezed him in - delaying the rest of his appointments for the day.

    I think we can all take a deep breath and try to remember that we aren't the only patient (or customer in any service business!) and that the world does not revolve around us. Difficult, sometimes - especially when it comes to our health. But it would make the world a more loving place!

  3. So happy to have found your blog. I love your insights! Can't wait to see what comes next:-)


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