One of the symptoms of my unbalanced life is that I tend to get worn down and sick.
I also tend to try treating/ healing myself first, before I allow my doctor to have a go at it. Which means that I have usually gotten a lot sicker by the time I call my doctor’s office for an appointment.
Which is why I am really, really SO not in the mood to deal Mrs. Grouchy Grump, who always answers the phone at my doctor’s office. I mean, it’s bad enough to feel badly, but then to be treated like a nuisance for feeling badly, for having the nerve to dial my doctor’s office, and make the phone on Mrs. Grouchy Grump’s desk ring, when she has waaaaaay more important things to do than talk to the sorry, sick likes of me…well, it’s too much. It’s enough to bring a sick, sleepy, weepy person to tears.
Now maybe you think that I am cranky with this lady – because I’m sick and sleepy and weepy and all – which causes her to be cranky in return. Not so. I go out of my way to be exceedingly polite to Mrs. Grouchy Grump. I use plenty of pleases and thank yous and yes ma’ams, because I know that in Mrs. Grouchy Grump’s mind, I am asking her for a humongous favor. The conversation on my end usually goes something like this: “Hello, I’m so sorry to bother you, Mrs. Grouchy Grump, but could I please, please, pretty please have an appointment with my doctor, because I’m sick, and I’m under the impression that he helps sick people – is that right? Yes, ma’am, of course I’ll hold. It’ll be my distinct honor and privilege to be placed on hold by you, while you try to sort out this whole disgusting mess I’ve made. Thank you so, so much.”
On her end, there is usually a lot of huffing and puffing, followed by a litany of reasons that my doctor can’t possibly see me today. Or tomorrow. And no, none of the other doctors have time for me either. There is usually one clipped “no” followed by a more dramatic and emphatic “NOOOO” just to make sure I understand – because Mrs. Grouchy Grump suspects that I might be a teensy bit stupid – after all, I was dumb enough to get sick and call on a day like this, a day when the people in my doctor’s office cannot possibly be expected to deal with me or my health problems. But, because Mrs. Grouchy Grump is the faaar superior human being here, she will take pity on sick, stupid me, and out of the goodness of her heart, she will generously offer me an appointment with my doctor precisely fourteen years from today, first thing in the morning. Will that work for me? No, it will not.
Which is why today, after two days of begging for an appointment with my doctor, I gave up and went to a walk-in clinic. As I was filling out the mountain of paperwork that my regular doctor already has – it was better than having to talk to Mrs. Grouchy Grump again – my cell phone rang. It was someone from my doctor’s office, apologizing, and telling me that my doctor would’ve gladly seen me at any time, if he’d only known that I was trying to get an appointment, and could I come over now? I said something like, “Ummmmmm…well, it’s just that I’m already on page one-thousand-fifty-three of my paperwork here at the walk-in clinic.”
Look, if you ask me, sick people don’t put off going to the doctor because they dread the doctor, fear the germs in the waiting room, or hate the hospital-smell. It’s not the paper gowns, or the poking or the prodding, or even getting on the scale – I know, right? No, sick people put off going to the doctor because the lady who books the appointments is SCARY and MEAN. She hates people, and she hates sick people most of all. And sick people are both of those things.
So here’s my big idea to improve healthcare in this country: Doctors, consider your receptionists carefully. Very carefully. Maybe try to avoid hiring people who look like this:
Trust me, Doc: This is a look that we, your patients, can all feel over the phone.