How to ignore a patient without really trying

I was hoping I’d have nothing to report about my follow-up appointment with Dr. Eye Surgeon. I resisted all fodder for another blog post, I really did. But, in the end, I couldn’t help myself.

I was a bit agitated as I awaited my minute with the doctor, knowing I had only 2 hours before Mr. Furnace’s arrival to fix our faltering heat. J. suggested I tell the receptionist I had explosive diarrhea so she might hasten my departure. Creative problem solving that I did not heed.

Rather, I occupied myself by focussing excessively on the announcement posted on every wall asserting that as it was a specialist’s office, one- to three-hour waits were not uncommon. The last sentence was my favourite: “Thank you in advance for your patience.” What patience?! I’m the most impatient patient around, although only with physicians who greedily overschedule. I fantasized about ripping down the signs, but then I noticed that the many television screens tuned to Dr. E.S.’s channel displayed the same message every two minutes. Was I the only one in this horror movie? Maybe the other patients weren’t so annoyed because their cataracts prevented them from reading the signs.

After an hour, I got my turn with the doctor. He even sat down. Our conversation went something like this:

Dr. E.S.: [Upon entering the room] Hi.

Annie: Hi. (Inside voice: Since he doesn’t know my name, I’ll pretend I don’t know his.)

Dr. E.S.: [Upon crossing the room, sitting in front of his computer, and looking at the screen, on which his assistant has displayed my file]: Annie.

Annie: Yes.

Dr. E.S.: [Pausing to read the computer monitor since he has no idea why I’m there] I removed a lump on your eyelid.

Annie: Yes.

Dr. E.S.: [Looking back to the screen.] How is your leukemia?

Annie: Um, fine?

Dr. E.S.: [Looking back to the screen] Well, your lump was just a stye, but because it was so large, it concerned me so I needed to remove and biopsy it.

Annie: I am not surprised by your findings. (Who are you kidding? I heard you say, before my sedation hit, that the lump was so small, removal wasn’t necessary.)

Dr. E.S.: Some people with skin conditions like yours are prone to styes. (I hadn’t realized leukemia is a skin condition.) I wonder if your styes are related to your diet. I saw a fellow in his 50s yesterday who switched to a low-carb, high-fat diet, and he’s never felt better. He’s healthier and has started running marathons.

Annie: I imagine he does not have leukemia? (Yes, I really said this; I couldn’t help myself.)

At this point, Dr. E.S. had been in the room for a full four minutes, but I had not yet merited his full attention. I had no idea why he was advising me on my diet, especially since he’d asked me nothing about what I eat. We psychologists are expected to work within our domains of competence. Wouldn’t the same be true of doctors? Tired of listening to him, I said good bye, got up, and left.

I realize now I’d have saved myself considerable time and frustration had I noticed my file open on the computer monitor, read it myself, and left before the doctor arrived. Hindsight is indeed 20/20.


6 thoughts on “How to ignore a patient without really trying

  1. I wish I could be light-hearted about it but truthfully I am embarrassed by it for my profession. Somehow your observations and concerns, which are frighteningly common amongst patients who interact with this particular specialty, need a larger voice and I need to think about how to get you that voice. Ideas?


    • Thank you for not laughing. I trust I’m not the only patient with experiences like these. If you can find me a forum, you know I love to share my concerns far and wide. I’m afraid I have no ideas, other than lodging a formal complaint. That would single a doctor out for a problem that is systemic.

      You know I mean no offence by my humour. It’s the only way I can get myself through situations like these.

      I appreciate your concern.



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