Medical gatekeepers

I am dealing with a medical issue that apparently requires me to see a specialist.  My doctor sent a referral to the specialist.  After four business days I had not heard from them, so I politely called.  The person answering the phone explained that the doctor will look at the referrals on his desk when he has time, and they will call me.  Then her tone became haughty, and she said, “Just so you know, we are currently scheduling appointments three to four weeks out.” 

My response was a quiet, “Oh dear . . . ”   I politely asked that when they do call, would they please call my work number, so I can schedule something right away rather than waiting to hear the answering machine at home and calling the next day.

Now she actually gave a sigh of exasperation, and said that yes, she could add a note to the file.

I thanked her, and as we hung up, thought, “I really hope she hasn’t pegged me as a potential difficult customer.  I really hope she puts the note on my referral and someone reads it before they call.  I really hope she doesn’t move my referral to the bottom of the pile.”

Whatever the sequence of events, they called my home phone number one week later.  In the message they informed me they would be closing at 2 p.m. that day, and would not be open again until five days later.   Five more days to wait.

I do understand a specialist being busy, especially when you are the only one in a rural county.  I do understand the need to keep difficult customers from making a pest of themselves.   The receptionist or nurse is often the one who has to protect their boss from what sometimes turns into harassment by patients.  But what I object to is a haughty, I-know-everything-and-work-for-a-busy-important-person-and-you-are-a-peon attitude.  They are dealing with people who are in pain, and perhaps a little bit scared.  Some kindness and compassion would go a long way toward soothing even a difficult customer. 

I am trying hard to believe the people in that specialist’s office are just incompetent.  I really don’t want to believe malice was involved.  Meanwhile, I am researching the possibility of going out of town for my treatment.


About judithornot

Lives in semi-rural Northern California, happily married, retired counselor, night person, knits, plays WoW.
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2 Responses to Medical gatekeepers

  1. kiwiyarns says:

    Poor you! I hope the issue isn’t serious. I often think the medical profession need to understand it isn’t a business they are running but more of a responsibility. Hippocrates was right. It’s about people’s lives and health – the thing that keeps us all ticking.

    I deal with issues like that by remembering that half the time a negative response is not about you but about the issues the person is going through at the time. But I guess you know that!


  2. judithornot says:

    I try to remember their response is probably not about me, but it’s not always easy. 🙂 Thanks for mentioning that. It is not life-threatening, more frustrating and mildly painful. The good news is that I get to see them on the 31st; one to two weeks sooner than had been suggested. 🙂


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