The Doctor Will Be Right With You

If you’re like me, you spend most of your time fantasizing about taking a break from your ridiculously frantic life to just sit around for a few hours and do absolutely nothing. When this craving to completely waste an entire day reaches a critical level, I do what many Americans do. I make an appointment to see a doctor.

You know what I’m talking about. A typical doctor visit starts off with a nice relaxing rest in the waiting room for an hour and a half, followed by an equally relaxing hour and a half in a well lit treatment room. Then, as if on cue, a peppy assistant comes in with a laptop and starts typing in your entire medical history starting with your first hangnail. This is the same history that you recorded on the form you filled out in the waiting room, but the highly trained assistant knows that there is no way you will remember something that occurred that long ago. After this you are treated to a well-earned thirty minute rest while you wait for the doctor, who actually turns out to be the physician assistant. This person actually asks you what you came to the doctor for, and as you are telling the whole story, they are typing furiously on the laptop what appears to be Gone With the Wind. When this is done, they assure you that the doctor will be there in just a few short minutes.

Sometime during this wait, the night cleaning crew comes in and dusts the cobwebs off your skeletal remains and freshens you up before the cheerful doctor comes in and asks, “so, what brings you here today?”. While you are telling him, he resumes the frantic typing started by the assistant, and when he finally finishes, he sends you on your way because your injury has long since healed on its own.

For those lucky enough to still have an injury when they are done seeing the doctor, they often get referred for further testing like x-rays, MRI’s, CAT scans, PET scans, or an array of other opportunities to sit around and do absolutely nothing for hours on end. A day like this leaves me completely refreshed and ready to jump back into my hectic life, so I was stunned to read an article in the journal Canadian Family Physician which actually said that “The waiting room has come to represent a containment space of inevitable frustration for patients and physicians alike.” (1)

Apparently there are people out there who have a problem with this whole “day of rest and relaxation” thing, and they are working feverishly to put a stop to it. Dr Thomas Savides, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Diego Health system, was quoted in an article in the San Diego Union Tribune saying “Healthcare is placing increased attention on patient experience”, and the same article reported that in the previous year average waiting room times had already decreased by one minute. (2) This is an urgent situation. At this rate, one of our last opportunities for rest and relaxation will be all but gone by the year 3,000. Don’t let this happen. Call your state representative today!

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