October 4, 2019
As I was composing the “Attaboy” article, it dawned on me that part of every patient’s education should be getting a first-hand look at the life of their physician. Being a patient-physician gives me a lot of insight into what goes on behind the counter in the office and in the exam room and helps make my visit to the doc much more pleasant than yours.
Did you ever wonder why, after 30 years of making morning rounds at the local hospitals caring for my sickest patients, I suddenly stopped making rounds? For 30 years, it was up at 5 a.m., in the hospital by 6 a.m. drove to the office and prepped for the day by 7:30 a.m., work 10-12 hours and then go back to the hospital. Understand, I’m not complaining. Caring for people was (and still is) my mission.
At 3 a.m. my phone rang:
Nurse – “Dr. Segal this is Ellie from 4 north, Mrs. P just fell and I’m calling to notify you.”
Me – “How bad did Mrs. P hurt herself? Do you need to transport her to the ER?”
Nurse – “Oh, she didn’t hurt herself at all. Her vitals are stable and her exam is normal. She just kinda slipped onto her buttocks.”
Me – “Why are you calling me at 3 a.m. Not only did you wake me up, but you woke up my wife. You know I’m in the hospital by 6.”
Nurse – “It’s hospital policy to notify the patient’s doc if they fall.”
Do you have bad days? Physicians do for a multitude of reasons. This is just one of those reasons. In reality, most of my working days could be described as bad! While my patients brought me a great deal of joy, my job entailed dealing with illness and injuries. I remember the kids who died in a homecoming accident. I remember the patients who had devastating strokes and heart attacks. I remember the names of those who committed suicide and those who suffered in agony but would not commit “suicide.”
I also remember missing my children’s’ sporting events, recitals, school function and . . . All of this takes a toll and at time, the stresses and sorrows spilled over into the exam room.
My front desk team was comprised of the nicest, most competent and caring people you would ever meet. At least the above description was accurate at 8:28 in the morning. By 8:30, they had been chewed out by patients over the paperwork they needed to fill out, over payment of past due bills, over wait time and . . . The list of patient demands and complains was overwhelming and usually out of our control. There are rules doctors’ offices have to follow.
So, I gave up seeing inpatients at the local hospital. I alleviated some of the stress but the nature of a busy family practice meant that there would always be sorrow mixed in with the joy.
So, when my doctor keeps me waiting, appears short or even rushed, I understand what his/her day is like and I cut them some slack. Perhaps you’ll think twice about chewing out your new docs’ staff or writing a bad review. Perhaps you’ll cut your doc some slack also. You could even ask, “Hey doc, how’s your day? Are you OK?”
In the next few weeks, I will publish a list of things you can do to prepare for your visit to the doc. If you are properly prepared, I can guarantee your visit to your new doc will be a more fulfilling encounter.