Dr. Suess

"And will you succeed? Yes indeed! Yes indeed! Ninety Eight and Three Quarters guarenteed!"

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Punctuality & Kindness

Pearls and Dreams

Ok, so this story happened this morning, and it happened to happen at my son's doctor's office, but, it happens, in any kind of business, all over America, everyday.

What is with people who think they can show up late and still keep the appointment they were scheduled for? I don't care if it's a doctor, a therapist, a lawyer, an accountant, a pastor, a job interview ...whatever. If you're late, your late and the business has moved on, taken the next person, and you being squeezed in will cause a back up for everyone else. If you're 5 minutes late, you're usually allowed in, and THAT disrupts the schedule. 10 minutes, you'll still probably be allowed, and THAT disrupts the schedule more. 15, and businesses, especially doctor's offices, are making people reschedule and that is the cause of this morning's chaos and the cause of today's posting.

I take my 13 year old (the grinner in the orange shirt below) to see the doctor for a follow up on his asthma. I almost cancelled because, he didn't seem to be having much problems with it. Since there have been several appointments where, I thought he was OK, and he got a breathing treatment while at the docs, I decided, better safe than sorry.

I walk in, and there are more pregnant women in that waiting room than I think I'd EVER seen in any one room! Including than in my OB/GYN office!!! (My sons go to the local medical college family residency program & they evidently were having their OB/GYN clinic ...word of warning ...if you're ever in this situation, and you're not one of them ... RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

So, we sign in, the girls behind the counter smile, greet us. They ask Benjamin how he's doing like they always do. They are obviously behind, so I go sit down and wait for them to call me back up to verify the insurance/address stuff.
A few minutes later, a woman comes in, I see the one woman behind the counter shaking her head. The woman waiting to be seen, looks like she's about 5 or 6 months pregnant and has a couple of kids with her. She gets mad. She starts to raise her voice and says that she doesn't care if she's 20 minutes late, she scheduled the appointment a month ago and should be allowed to keep it. The women in the office remain REMARKABLY calm & polite.

3 more women sign in. They've managed to sign in those 3 & verify about 5 more people and another pregnant woman comes in, same shaking of the head from behind the desk. This woman too, immediately becomes angry ... and says that she's only 15 minutes late and she doesn't care why these 'low life's won't let her in, they better let her in'. There are signs all over the place that say if you're over 15 minutes late, you will be rescheduled, it's on the appointment cards too.
She's yelling, she also has a toddler in tow.
The employees, once again, remain VERY calm and cool & collected & polite. My 13 year old son leans over and says "Mom! Why are these women being so mean to the people who work here?" I shrug my shoulders wondering if I should mention hormones or not ... I'm surrounded by pregnant women who haven't had their information verified yet.

By now, I've realized, something has gone wrong, I've had to wait at this clinic before, but never like this. I've been there 20 minutes and I haven't had information verified. The women are getting angry. I'm watching the employees at both windows as people are checking in and out ...and they are remaining calm as I'd ever seen them. People are being ruder than I'd EVER seen them in a doctor's office!

25 minutes after arriving, 10 minutes early for the appointment, they call me up for verification. The one woman looks at me and says "Thank you for always being so nice and patient!" I'm sitting there thinking the same thing about her!!!

We have to wait another 20 minutes to go back to the doctor, and the whole time we're out there a total of 7 people come in 15 minutes or later for their appointment. The last one, was 93 minutes late ... ONE HOUR AND THIRTY THREE MINUTES LATE!!!!! She had 3 kids, all looked to be under 5 with her. And the language out of her mouth made my son's face turn red!
She was screaming at them and telling them where they could stuff their appointment book ...and they never raised their voices. I have no idea where these women got their calm from. I certainly wouldn't be this calm ...heck! MY doctor's office doesn't treat us with this kind of respect! (See my post from last month!)

They call us back, we see the doc, who is THRILLED with Benjamin's treatment plan for his asthma working so well. He says his lungs sound better than he'd ever heard them. He talks to Benjamin about his fatigue and shortness of breath, and we find that it always follows a time that Bj has failed to remember to use his inhaler before exercise. So he talks to him about the importance of it. The doctor catches onto Benjamin's developmental delays in this visit. Our 4th. I don't know how I feel about that. I had a certain smugness in his lack of mentioning before, a certain amount of denial I was allowing myself to feel because of it.
He said he didn't notice it the first 2 visits, last time he suspected, this time he was sure, we talked about the possibility of testing & stuff like that (and why in the world is it not in his chart!? He's going to investigate cause it should have been there and should have been in his complete history taken by the other resident (first year, taking complete medical history) last apptointment.
I don't think it's necessary ... maybe at some future point. He probably should be in speech therapy, but finding a speech therapist that can deal with his problems is few and far between, it's far more language based than speech based.
Only 4 visits and he figured it out, means it's a bit more obvious than I think it is. Then again, he's a family medicine/psychiatry resident 3rd year and ...should he have gotten it before? I don't know.

Anyway. We start to leave, and one of the women from the front desk is walking by & she's almost in tears saying under her breath "I can't help it, we don't do that today, she didn't have an appointment for her little girl! She had an OB appointment, it's not my fault it's not my fault it's not my fault!" Then she looks up and see's me ... looks embarrased and immediately smiles and goes back to her congenial nature. Gives Benjamin a hug since he's within her reach and there is no window between them. Goes back to work.

I go to check out and there is a woman screaming at the check out girl ...this makes screamer #8. She's pregnant too ..screaming because she's there for an OB/GYN appointment and she brought her 2 year old to get a vaccination, she was due at 15 months, she has to have it for day care & they won't let her back without it and she has to have it and now what do I do.
They're telling her that they don't DO vaccinations on Tuesdays & they have a vaccination clinic nurse that does it by appointments on Mondays & Fridays. But she isn't even there to do it today, and the girl didn't have an appointment.
The mother is screaming at them that how can you be so mean! I'm just trying to take care of my 'f-in' baby! OKAY lady ... um ..first, she's 9 months LATE in getting the vaccine, you should have thought of that before.

What's the saying, lack of planning on your part does not justify an emergency on my part?

The woman checking out, is polite, and calm, the security guard is red faced and obviously tired, fed up.
The woman storms out and says "No body in this #@#$# place ever tries to help me!"

I step up to check Bj out and tell the girl, you've always been helpful to me!

So, Benjamin and I walk out the door and he makes the comment about how mean all those women were, and how nice the people who work there were, and how they should be told their nicer than they're being treated. I agree. So we go to the store and get them cards and snickers easter eggs & go back to the clinic.
The one woman who hugged Benjamin in the hallway, you could SEE the stress melt off her when we handed it to her!!!!! Then she came running around the office door to give us both a hug.
The other woman teared up and kept working. She just shook her head and said "Thank you, you just made this all alot easier"

We walked across the clinic to give the check out girl her card/candy & she saw us again and tensed up, and Benjamin handed her the card & candy and she just sighed.

We walked out of there with my 13 year old son in tears. "Mom! I think we made a difference in their lives!!"

I knew when we decided to go to the store, that we would be making a difference, what I didn't plan on, was the effect that would have on my emerging teenage son!!!!

People, if you're late ... call, find out if you can still be seen. If not, reschedule.
Don't ANYONE leave a comment here about waiting forever in the doctor's offices! People show up AT their appointment times, signing in at the time, or 5 minutes late, which puts the doctor behind the 8 ball, and each patient that does that, puts the doctor behind the 8 ball even more.

I went into my neurologist one time and got out 5 minutes BEFORE my scheduled appointment time. When I asked him how he'd managed that ... he said "EVERY single patient checked in 10 minutes before their scheduled appointment, when they're here on time, I rarely get behind"

Sure, emergency can and will happen but by and large ..if you spend any amount of time REALLY watching doctor's office workings ... it's the late patients that get things running behind! (except in a cardiologist & ortho's office those seem to just run behind! LOL)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. (get it RIGHT this time)

    Thank you for sharing this story; I hope to be able to model kindness for my daughter just as you've done for your son. Bravo to you, and good for Benjamin in recognizing how adults SHOULD behave!

    found your post via medpundit

  3. You and your son did an awesome thing by making those ladies day! I have too witnessed how rude people can be at the dr. office window and have often wondered why. but have never done anything. Bravo!

  4. I'm an OB/GYN and I rarely run behind when all the patients show up on time.(Unless I have to go do a delivery) At our office we don't reschedule until you're 30 minutes late, but if you're late you go to the bottom of the pile. Those who scream at the front desk because of the wait due to their lateness always seem to be sweetness and light when I finally see them.
    IF you call ahead when you know that you'll be late, we will see you if we're still at the office, we always appreciate the call.
    Finally you would not believe the large number of people who make appointsments and then never show up. That means we always overbook so that we will have someone to see.

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    I had another doctor appointment yesterday and again, someone showed up late and was expecting to be seen, only this time, they were a DAY late. Um ... what is WITH people?

    I was amazed at the impact this event had on my child. And then had on me because of the impact on my child. I don't think it is a day I will ever forget.

    It is amazing how, when you don't plan on making yourself feel better, how it can really effect you deep down to your core.

  6. I woke up with a recurring problem yesterday that I did not know what was the problem with -- but the recurringness (and the fact it was getting more frequent/serious) made me decide I needed to see a doctor about it.

    So I went to the doctor's office, prepared to sit all day waiting for them to have an opening in the schedule. (A no-show, or whatnot) Turns out they had a 9am opening already.

    And THEN, because I was already there and the first patient of the day hadn't showed up, they took me first thing! I was quite pleased!

    (Also, I try to get doctor's appointments in the morning, not the afternoon. So all those other late people don't affect me.

    Frankly, I would have no problems with a doctor rescheduling anyone that arrived 10 minutes late! And hopefully they charge all those no-shows for wasting their time?)

  7. That office should consider having a "walk-in" clinic, where patients show up at their convenience and wait their turn. It sounds like patients are ignoring their appointments times and treating it like a walk-in clinic, anyway. Some people are really too disorganized to get to their appts on time in the best of circumstances. In our clinic, if patients scream at staff, they are given a warning that this will not be tolerated. If it happens again, they are terminated for abusive and disruptive behavior.

  8. There is a walk in clinic in town, I am not sure why, if they want that kind of service, they haven't chosen that kind of a clinic instead of this one.

    I don't know what the follow through is on when a patient mistreats the staff, I would hope that it is something like you have described!
    I have no intention of finding out through experience!

  9. Looking at asthma info online today while my son coughs I came across this post. Does anyone know a good asthma site to help?


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