Friday, January 17, 2014

Next time your doctor is running behind schedule

I had an epiphany.

Tonight Jake is working a 30-hour shift at the children’s hospital, so I spent an hour making dinner and 25 minutes of driving so we could enjoy a homemade meal together. Our meals are usually anywhere from 30 seconds to 25 minutes. Tops. 

I waited on the bottom floor of the hospital for him to come jogging down the stairs like he usually does, anticipating our meager dinner and few quiet moments in the resident’s lounge, updates on my day and details about his.  

Five minutes pass. Then 10. Sure enough, 45 minutes pass and my hot salmon dinner is no longer warm — and neither is my mood. Eventually Jake comes rushing down the stairs only to tell me he’s so sorry, but we can’t eat dinner together tonight. I had to hand over the meal and jet. 

His young patient was out of surgery and not quite stable yet. He couldn’t waste any time and needed to get back to his room.

Duh. He was late for our classy hospital dinner because he was dealing with a sick child who needed him. Lots of children, actually. And worried parents.

For a moment, I had forgotten. I was only concerned about my time, my comfort, my needs and my meal.

I was grumpy that I had to wait, only to be turned away. And I bet you, too, get impatient when you wait in a doctor’s office. How dare the doctor make us wait, right? He’s just “in it for my money,” anyway. He’s out to get me.  

Fallacy. (No one seems to consider how much medical school costs. And how many years it takes to get out of debt. Personal message me if you’d like details. And our W2.)

Doctors put other’s kids before their own. They miss dinners with their pregnant wives, anniversaries, birthdays, sports events and baptisms. They commit to putting their needs second, working thousands of hours, studying for a million more — not to mention the lack of sleep and emotional toll of deaths and child abuse.

You may be waiting an extra 30 minutes for your appointment, and that’s got to be frustrating. I can’t speak for all doctors, but from what I’ve witnessed firsthand on the inside, the majority are doing their very best to give every patient the attention and care they need.


We may never know what struggles the child and parents are having in the appointment before our own, or what cold dinner waits on the doctor's table at home. 

So let's lighten up a bit. 

76 comments:

  1. Love this! My husband is a pediatrician finishing up his third year of residency...completely agree. :-D

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! Congratulations on making it to the end. Woohoo. We have 17 months left and then the "realy life" begins.

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    2. I have two Dr.s in my family and still never understood what they sacrifice for others until I met the team of Dr.s that saved my daughters life when she was daignosed w leukemia! They spent countless hours on her alone and in our hospital stays I witnessed some of them trying to have a moment w their own family in the lounge! I am grateful for the Dr.s and their families bc if they didn't have your love and support waiting for them at home I'm not sure they could make it through their challenges at work! Thank you GOD for the selfless people in the world!

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    3. well said Jacque. We go to the VA hospital for our care and I never complain because the Vets always come first to me. I am just a dependent that is lucky enough to receive care there also.

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    4. well said Jacque, I totally agree.

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  2. Servant leader for sure. Great story!

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  3. Completely relate and agree! Thanks for writing this. -Grace

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  4. Totally agree! I just wrote almost the exact same blog post myself. Fellow doctors wife here and sometimes it takes being a part of it to really appreciate the sacrifice and selflessness that physicians have. Its not all about the money and cars and homes. You should join us on our Medical Mondays blog hop we would love to have you!

    www.kellysreality.com

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  5. I understand and agree that a 15-30 minute wait is a minor inconvenience, it happens quite often...but...there are exceptions.
    Case in point: a dermatologist in private practice who kept his patients waiting two hours per appointment on a regular basis. As a fellow professional, I had to insist on a call if they were running an hour behind schedule. They did not call. The following appointment, I handed the receptionist MY bill, for the amount of time it cost me to wait. From that time on, they called. My point? It is common courtesy--particularly in private practice--to call patients if there will be an unusual wait. Clearly this was a case of overbooking on a regular basis.
    But thank you for writing this...for those who do not understand an occasional longer wait, I hope that it helps with perspective! And God bless you for bringing dinner to your husband when he is on shift--someday you will look back on those moments together and smile.

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    1. I see your point but when it comes to specialist like dermatologist, were there are a few of them...they have to overbook otherwise patients that need to be seen have to wait weeks for an appointment. In addition, heath care these days is not like in the past. Doctors are struggling to stay afloat. So they need to see more patients in a short period of time to be able to survive. I don't know what kind of practice you have but good for you if you don't need to see a lot of patients!!!!



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    3. At many offices they have to overbook due to appointments who do not show. On any given day we have approximately 20% just not show up for the appointment leaving the doctor with empty time.

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    4. I would think that if they are consistently running 2hrs behind, they are overbooking their overbooking... obiously a balance needs to be struck to try to compensate for no shows while keeping a smoothly running practice.

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    5. Okay, but "working in the medical field" may equate to mopping the floors from 9PM to 5AM. And of course, I would never stop the custodian in the hallway at 2AM to ask him which drug to administer to my patient with pulseless ventricular fibrillation after administering the first round of epinepherine.

      If you wish to use your position to establish your credibility, perhaps you should be more specific. Otherwise keep pushing that mop!

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  6. great post! I am married to a dr. as well. Since I was here on your blog a read a couple of other posts, including your poem about miscarriage. It was a beautiful poem. I am so sorry about your trial. Heartbreaking and difficult.

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  7. wrong google account! I'm Denise Gonda

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  8. Great post! My husband is a second year resident and I can definitely relate. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when he misses dinner or yet another family event. But it will get better and God is using him to be salt and light to so many sick patients!

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  9. Incredibly true! My husband is a 2nd year resident and I was telling a couple of other "resident wives" the other day.... we are all bound together by some unseen strand something like a group of those who have been in battle together. It is a unique struggle, one that is worth all of the ups and downs to be support for the amazing men we married.

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    1. I understand the sentiment, but be careful with the analogies you make. I'm active duty. Thankfully, I've never been deployed to a combat zone, but I've been deployed to sea twice for two years at a time. Having a husband who comes home at least most days is nothing like those wives who have husbands that don't come home for months, let alone those whose husbands are serving in combat and may come home in a casket.
      I understand it's hard to not see your husband much, but I basically missed the first two years of my first daughter's life while I was at sea. I would have given anything to spend a few hours a week at home during that time.

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  10. Im son of a doctor so I have gotten to see firsthand what those in the medical field have to go through for most of my life. He's missed swim meets, basketball games, soccer games, concerts, radio broadcasts and a host of other things...wouldnt trade it for anything though

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  12. Hi med wives! Thanks for this article. It means alot that someone understands and sticks up for us. I'm in the weird position of being a doctor who is also a doctor's wife. On the one hand, it's great to have a spouse who instantly understands my job. On the other, I sometimes feel like a single parent (he does too when it's his shift). I'd like to ask a favor of you - keep an eye out for your husbands' single girl colleagues. It can be hard to keep friendships with our girlfriends alive during residency. You guys are in a unique position of understanding so invite them to do stuff with you. Even if they can't make it (ever), they'll appreciate being asked.

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    1. As a single-mom/family doc. I completely agree with this. We miss our opportunities for "girl-time."

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  13. I have mixed feelings about this. There are absolutely situations that come up on a regular basis, especially in certain specialties that involve very sick patients, that make valid excuses for physicians being late or slow. But I have observed, both during my residency and in my own private practice group, patients waiting for ridiculously long periods because the doctor is too busy socializing, having inappropriately long conversations with talkative patients, managing their other get-rich-quick side business schemes to pay for their brand new boat, or just being plain slow and inefficient.

    If your doctor is consistently late at every appointment, then you should find another doctor who is more respectful of your time.

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    1. That's highly unrealistic to expect any doctor to be on time every time. Also, the reasoning that if he's late to every appointment, he's intentionally being less respectful to you is exactly the kind of fallacy she's referring to. My doctor is consistently late to every appointment because his staff does overbook. Though he's booked for 15 minutes a patient, he spends 30 minutes to an hour with every single patient and provides quality care and really takes the time to make sure his patients understand everything. He's not trying to be any less respectful by doing so.

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    2. To Q:
      I didn't see the OP suggesting you should expect your doc to be on time every time. He said that if your doctor is consistently late, then find another doc. But that's different from being late once in a while. My primary care manager on base has a policy that if you've had to wait more than 15 minutes past your appt time, then that's unacceptable.

      And, sorry, but if your doc knows that he has too many patients, then he's in charge, and he needs to tell his staff to stop overbooking. No doc needs to spend 30 minutes to an hour with every single patient...let alone most patients. I've never had my doc or my kid's pediatricians need to spend more than 15 minutes with us. He may think he's providing extra attention and that's valued, but he's hurting those at the end of the day by it.

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    3. For some of us, "having inappropriately long conversations with talkative patients" has another name. Building relationships.

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  14. Agree with gk, many doctors, and for that matter many other professionals in fixed jobs(non-private) make it a habit of being late and just being casual. Despite having a lifestyle as busy as noted in this article, and being in the medical profession myself, I resent that sort of behavior.
    Same goes for nurses and others who justify their vices with random articles and unrelated reasons while all we are doing is just being nonchalant and subsequently disrespectful of the ailing human being. It's the healthcare ffs, not the grocery store.

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    1. You write as though you are in the medical field. If you don't know then posting a comment which states "...make it a habit of being late..." makes it sounds like you know for sure when you don't. My wife is a physician and I am a pharmacist and having witnessed first hand your perception is incorrect and it is just that...a PERCEPTION that you have made a reality with no real basis for facts.

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    2. I am in the medical field, as I noted in my post above. Next.

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  15. I'm not a physician wife.. I'm the physician. I hope my children grow up knowing why mommy couldn't always do the things other mommys were doing. That I did the best I could and loved them no matter what. I want someone to take care of my precious babies the way I take care of yours. So please be patient if you have to wait... you may one day be grateful that someone is waiting while the doctor takes time for you or your family.

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  16. I'm a firefighter and paramedic. Do you really want to talk about thanklessness, death, domestic violence, dangerous situations, and things of that sort? I went to Katrina for 3 weeks only to be shot at by the maniacs that were looting and refused to leave. I've served my country in the military as well. Yes, there are exceptions for a wait, but get real. A waiting room is bullshit unless it's in the Emergency Department. I've been in an ER actively bleeding from my chin due to a loss of consciousness and watched people with the sniffles and a cough go in to be seen hours before me. When I was in the ER, 2 victims from a car accident held up my treatment, but that's understandable! Don't give me any crap about how much medical school costs and how much studying was required. A doctor may struggle for a time, but I don't see a lot of struggling for them in their large houses and luxury vehicles some years later. Give me a break. I work on a regular basis with physicians of all specialties. Some of them are great. Many of them are arrogant assholes that tailor their treatment like a cookbook instead of actually listening to and helping their patients. Cry all you want, but don't come crying to me. Especially when I'm the guy hanging upside down in a flipped over semi trying to start IV access in the pouring rain. Man up and deal with your patients with a sense of urgency and care.

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    1. Seems to me that Todd has an attitude problem---maybe a little upset that HE didn't go to med school. These doctors make life and death decisions and are sued--or attempted to be sued--on a daily basis because people don't take responsibility for their reckless behavior OR don't bother to follow the doctors orders and then want somebody else to blame. If Todd is so angry about the doctors and their fine homes then next time he is sick he needs to seek help someplace OTHER THAN A DOCTORS OFFICE. Todd should also look into another profession sinc he seems so unhappy in his "THANKLESS" job. Get over yourself Todd

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    2. ER nurse here. Todd, I think you just need a hug. You're upset that this wife recognizes that due to the nature of her husband's job, not only less sick patients are waiting, but also his own personal life is waiting (and suffering) as well. She is simply recognizing that there is always someone sicker than you at any given time, hence the wait. You should be glad you are waiting, that means you're NOT DYING. But someone might be going thru that process if the doc tends to your little chin lac. Why do you feel so entitled? Because you worked thru Katrina, but don't own a nice house and car? You seem to be the kind of LP who would brag about you're better/smarter because you can intubate a patient and ER nurses like me can't. Dude I went to school longer than you, and the MD's went for way more against both of us combined. You get real, you man up, and you get over yourself.

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    3. Unfortunately it's those doctors who actually listen to the patient and think through each individual case who are usually running late, because it takes much more time to do so than to treat everyone with cookbook medicine. Throughout residency & fellowship, I've struggled with the ridiculously short appointment times that "the system" allots for each patient. I just think this kind of set up encourages cookbook medicine, and I am totally opposed to it. Not going into private practice for this reason.

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    4. Todd
      As a nurse I can understand your perspective...sort of. I am the one who carries out the physicians orders. Wiping poop all day for 13 hour shifts is NOT glamorous and I get paid very little to do the grunt work. However, your anger is VERY misdirected. Last night as a nurse my shift was supposed to end at 1930! RIGHT? WRONG!!!! I finally got out at 2030 an hour late after starting at 0630. So my shift yesterday was 14 hours not 12 and I did not have time to eat breakfast, lunch (another spoiled lunch thrown in the garbage) and dinner was not looking promising either due to exhaustion! However, I am now in school to become a nurse practitioner and I am getting to see the flip side of the coin. I am currently 85,000.00 in debt so far with another 20,000.00 to go before I finish. I understand this pales in comparison to med school but it is still daunting considering I will make way less than a MD when I am finished! That's ok I didn't do it for the money completely. So when you have worked 24 hour shifts on call for countless days in a row and haven't seen your family in a week and you are just praying that your wife and kids understand and still love you when you finally do make it home and fall right in to bed then you understand the flip side. We in the medical field all have difficult lives and we have to make choices that sometimes hurt the ones we love. Its a balancing act! I am just thankful that my husband and children are supportive and they understand that mommy loves them. When I feel like quitting and I think I can't do one more day my husband picks me up and CARRIES me through until I have the strength to do it myself!

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    5. What kind of doctors do you see who are living the glamorous life? I am a community doc, struggling to pay my ridiculous student loans, mortgage for my simple home, and other essential bills. I do not have diamonds or other expensive jewelry, have been driving a Toyota Corolla for 5 years ...an upgrade from my now 23 year old Toyota Tercel...havent gone on any exotic vacations, etc etc. I respect the work you do and am so sorry that people in the days Katrina shot at you...I would imagine that being in that horrible, unimaginable situation is enough to make even the sweetest people behave badly...but please do not lump all privileged, rude, God complex docs in with the rest of us. Some of us are in it to help people and truly want to make the world better through helping others, and we are simple and sacrifice so much for this often thankless life.

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    6. Hi Todd,
      Another paramedic here. I also was in Louisiana for Katrina. I've been assaulted on the job. I've worked in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country. We probably have a lot of similar experiences. I've waited in the ED for care, too. But, you have got to get over yourself. This sort of inferiority complex is not doing the EMS profession any good. You probably get more thanks than you realize, but, based on your post, you're probably consumed with the idea that no one cares to even notice the thanks that you do get. Anyhow, I am now on the "other" side of the stretcher (actually, I presently work both sides). I'm a 4th year medical student going into EM and have had the privilege to experience many practices of medicine. I can tell you with certainty that you don't know shit about the medical profession (I can still curse, see). Medical students have a way of complaining about their rotations, but one thing that I have learned is that we have it pretty good compared to current residents and even compared to many attending physicians (most of whom did not have it as easy as I when they went through medical school, or as easy as I will have it during residency). I worked with docs who'd get up at 5 am and go in to the hospital to round on their patients, and then get into the office by 8 to start seeing patients. Sure, an hour lunch, but then back to seeing patients. By the time 5 or 6 rolled around, they may have seen 40+ patients all while having to field phone calls from the hospital, pharmacies, insurance companies, etc. And then, they'd sometimes head back to the hospital to follow up on patients or to put in orders for newly admitted patients. Come the weekend when they don't have office hours? They may be on-call and still having to go to the hospital to round on their patients. Many of these docs worked 7 days a week. Sure, some have nice houses and fancy cars, and can travel to cool places for vacations, but they put the time in to get it.

      As a paramedic, I assume you are painfully aware of how bad EMS can be... the horrible paramedics and EMTs, and horrible services that exist. I don't think you want to be judged by their actions, so, you know, offer that courtesy to others within the same field you work (healthcare).

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    7. Brother, you may need to get some treatment for PTSD. I've been there. It changed my life. I'm a former EMT (WTC Ground Zero) and now a PA. Medicine is not a place to make money anymore. Anecdotes aside, we ALL (EMTs, Nurses, PAs, Doctors, others) work as hard as we can to do a good job. A lot of times working as hard as we can means missing out on things most people take for granted. That was the purpose of this blog. It's not to berate anyone. Get help before you do something you really regret. Take it from someone who has been there.

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  17. A friend forwarded me your posting and I cannot help but comment. As a wife to a pediatric ICU doctor who just completed his training- I can relate. Lawd knows, I can relate. It's heart-warming to see someone else out there be in the same boat and know that we, on the other side of that white coat, are not alone in this life we share. Well said, Friend.

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    1. My husband is in the PICU this month!! I don't know how people do that full time. Your husband is a saint. Mine is just on it this month and it's definitely rough. So glad to know other women can relate. Thank you for reading this and for taking the time to comment. Hats off to all PICU docs ... bless the both of you!

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  18. Thank you for sharing your heart. I really appreciate this from both perspectives. My daughter spent 3 weeks in CCU and we were so grateful for the residency drs and nurses (obviously the graduated Drs too!). But, also when we have to go in for appointments they are often running behind -- we had to wait 2 hours for an echo... but I kept reminding myself that I was sitting there with a little miracle... there may be other families dreading that echo. I can calmly wait knowing hers will be fine. Thanks for your perspective. I'd love to chat more with you! My email is thejoyfulmomma@gmail.com

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    1. Hi, Lauren! Thanks for reading this and taking the time to comment. I am so sorry you spent so much time in the CCU, but so glad you have a strong perspective. I can't imagine how hard that was with your daughter, and you're a champion mother for your patience. So glad your daughter is OK!

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  19. Thank you for sharing! I can be that impatient patient.....I needed this reality check!

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  20. I'm a nurse, so i know what bogs down appointments and most are legitimate, I'm also a patient and know how frustrating it feels to wait. My objection is when pharmacy rep's come in during routine hours and take up patient time. There is a time and a place for pharmacy rep's. They do bring in samples of medications which can be passed on as savings to a patient, but they should come in at appropriate times. I know that most of my appointments are short, I'm in and out, but I know that there are times my appointment might be a little more complicated and run longer. I like that my physician can spend that extra time with me. I also know other people need that extra time sometimes as well.

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  21. As a resident, I'm so grateful there are a lot of thoughtful people out there who understand this dilemma. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and for your thoughtful comment. Good luck in your residency!

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  22. As the wife of a second year resident, I totally hear you. And you are absolutely right. Thanks for the perspective.

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  23. Thank you! Was planning to write something similar on behalf of my Dr Hubby. He's an intern and working so very hard. Really irks me when people yell at him for not be "more on top of things", but I'm also trying to see it from their perspective, especially since it's hard to be cheerful when you're not feeling well. Nicely put!

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  24. As the wife of a family medicine doctor who has been practicing in our town for 16 years (before that he was in the military as a doc for 8 yrs - 3 of which were residency), I have to tell you that residency is hard! The hours are long and difficult not only for the resident but for the family waiting at home. I can't count how many times he would come home so drained that food wasn't even on the radar, just sleep. But just so you know, it does get better - but don't expect it to disappear. They became doctors because they want to help people and that doesn't always happen at convenient times. Be proud of who they are and what they do as they help others. Be patient with them and yourself - it can and does get better.

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  25. As a pediatrician in practice for ten years, I hate running behind. There are days that it is inevitable. When my 8 am patient shows up at 815, how can I turn them away because their parents are late? Then it throws the rest of my morning off, which I know is annoying to others, but I can't punish the child.
    As physicians though one thing that is very important is to acknowledge your lateness, even if it is not your fault, and thank the patient's family for their patience.

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  26. I agree with this, except for the "lighten up" part-- If no one ever complains then no changes and improvements will ever be made-- Just need to complain to the right people, complaining to the person who cares for your well being is stupid. Complaining to the HR department is better-- I'm curious what is your husband expecting with Obama care?

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  27. Wife of a burn surgeon and agree with this post on many levels. We had twins & another baby while he was training (residency && fellowships) and the amount of time I spent alone was off the charts. But... Like you I always try to be thankful it's not me in the OR with one of our babies. I know he's changing lives. I can go weary of the nay-Sayers who think its all glitz, glam & big pay checks., but again- we know the truth & that's all that really matters. Of course there are occasions when docs run behind w/o good reason, but it's not much different than a patient running late. It happens & you try to be understanding. Thx for a thought-provoking post!

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  28. As a healthcare provider I absolutely understand a physician getting tied up delivering quality care. I also, however, believe patients deserve to be updated on why they are waiting (not violating HIPAA of course, but a general idea) and how much longer they should expect to wait. Most patients will be undderstanding if they are kept informed.

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  29. Great post! I am a second year attending, and feel this sacrifice every day of my life... Glad I'm able to do it!

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  30. Great article and I agree there are some times when appointments run over. However, when I drive 45 miles to pick up my 91 year old mother for an appointment with a thyroid doctor and an hour and a half later we are still waiting to go into the first waiting room and am told when we get in there two patients are ahead of us I tend to think there is plenty of overbooking involved. I cancelled that appointment to help with the backlog of patients since it was in the afternoon and made an early appointment (9am) so there would not be such a backlog. When we walked in for the appointment the waiting room was full (the first appt. was at 8am). After waiting 45 minutes, and no one has been called in for their appointment, people started talking in the waiting room. One had an 8am appointment and another had an 8:30 appointment. The person with the 8:30 appointment was called in before the 8am appointment because he arrived before the 8am appointment. That's when I decided to go to another doctor that cares about his/her patients more than the money he makes. I know the doctor was not tied up at the hospital because I saw him when I came in. I take my mother to many doctors appointments and the majority of the doctors advise their staff if someone has to wait longer than 15 minutes they be given the opportunity to reschedule their appointment.

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    1. BTW, in our area there is a severe shortage of endocrinologists. There may be other reasons than greed for overbooking...like patient need.

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  31. You're amazing! Ill definately think twice when I'm waiting and b more thankful when my dr takes the time to chat wme more!

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  32. RN here...I deeply appreciate our physicians. They go through CRAZY rigorous schooling to be able to help my family when we need it most. I'm grateful for that. I know they usually rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt doing it.HOWEVER, I think both sides need to give the other a break. Patients need to give physicians the benefit of the doubt and be KIND. Doctors need to stop overbooking so much, and stop complaining about how much debt they have, because most of them have been given the salary they need to be able to pay it off, if they'll be financially wise and leave beneath their means for a while. We have a physician friend who paid off $220,000 of debt in five years because they lived on $60.000 and funneled the rest into his loans. Most people spend 10+ years paying off their student loans...I don't know many physicians who simply cannot pay off their loans in that amount of time (or less) if they make it a priority. Speaking as a wife of a PhD marriage therapist who works his tail off seeing people on nights and weekends too and getting severely underpaid for it, it's a little hard to hear our anesthesiologist/ER/oncology friends complain about money problems.

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  33. First, everyone is commenting about private practice. The author is talking about her husband being a resident/fellow in a hospital. In the last paragraph she touches upon private practice just asking us to keep perspective. Hospital vs. private practice can be 2 totally different cultures. The difference can be based on speciality as well. I did this for my husband in tow so I could see him when he was a psych resident. Fast forward many years later and he is still busy. He continues to work for a hospital. Why? For a myriad of reasons. He does not make as much money than if he worked in private practice however, he is able to spend as much time as he needs to with his patients and their families. He does some clinic work at another hospital as well. My husband gets paid hourly, not by the number of patients he sees. However, the clinic does try and squeeze as many patients as they can (and sometimes they do not allow enough time but he's trying to work with them on that- some patients are complicated…some not). I think we have to remember every situation is different. And yes, I have been one of those patients that have waited for about 2 hours for an appointment. I just never went back to that doctor. We just have to some perspective and maybe look at it from the point of view from the doctor who isn't nonchalantly walking in whenever he feels like- that there are doctors who are trying to do their best and give their patients the time and respect that they and their families deserve and we should remember that.

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  34. I'm right there with you! I have a 7-yr-old and a 3-yr-old so we actually have "car picnics" (I park near the entrance) so we don't have to chase our son around. I've waited up to 30 minutes to eat 1-15 minutes with my husband, who works 12+ hour shifts as a hospitalist. But I try to remember that I put all this energy into each meal (we've even had high-tea including a 3-tiered china stand of finger sandwiches and mini muffins) so we can eat as a family a few nights a week. I also know he looks forward to it all day and is disappointed when he has to rush. But I'm so proud that he cares about each patient and their family, and his caring soul is why I fell in love with him in the first place. Let's just keep reminding each other!

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  35. I am an Industrial Engineer in a large hospital. I work directly with clinicians on decreasing their patient wait times. A lot of it is scheduling!! Its not people wasting time- I follow physicians around and they are working their butts off!! It's that the patients are not scheduled realistically. Many people dont realize that they can shift the times to later, keep the same number of patients, not have to stay later- yet significantly reduce the amount of time the patient waits! People that control the schedules did not learn any of this is school- they are doing the best they can- but there is so much room for improvement.

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  36. It's certainly hard to straddle home & work in any occupation. I would certainly not dismiss the hard work of others in their professions. It is a privilege for me to be a physician, yet I can attest to missing many events or moving holidays. I expect no sympathy, I know it is the world I signed up for. We as physicians are not a homogenous group and unfortunately not all my colleagues are thoughtful as they should be.
    As a surgical resident I take my patients concerns most seriously, I know if they are seeing me there is usually some fear or anxiety and it is my job to address those as well. Yes I operate (usually 3-5 cases in a day) but in any given day I am also rounding on in-house patients, I see patients in clinic, cover the patients in the SICU, get consulted in the ED, am talking to radiology about their findings on the imaging I ordered, calling the lab looking for my results, addressing the nurses patient concerns, doing bedside debridments or dismpactions, getting an arterial or central line started, talking to family members, or rehab clinics, or hospice, documenting on the EMR, filling patient paperwork, triaging a trauma patient, doing a bronchoscopy, or colonoscopy, etc, etc. Like I said it's my job though & the life that I signed up for. But just know that I get no allotted breaks, no lunch time, no dinner hour, I don't break sterility & leave the operating room to use the bathroom, or eat an apple, or rest my feet for a moment after standing for 5 hours. and there really is no one to "cover" for me. If I had a 7am case in the OR I have already been in the hospital working for 2-3 hours. And if after a 24 hour shift a patient is not stable I do not leave, even if I am to return start my next shift in 12 hours.
    For the amount I work, over a 5 year residency I get paid little over minimum wage. Yes, when I am done with residency I will get paid a lot more, but I will also be paying back more than $6,000 a month in student loans. That along with the fact that I did not have a true salary for over 10 years during my education means I will not catch up to the financial security of my peers that have been employed full time, for about another 10 years.
    I make no apologies for taking my time with patients, but I really, truly sorry if I am late and kept a patient waiting here and there, I do feel bad during those time. However, it will always pale in comparison to how as a mother I kept my 4 small children (18mths to 8yrs) waiting. I just hope that they know it is for the good of others and our society.

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  37. I also was forwarded your post from a friend...thank you so much for your words! As a wife of a medical intern (1st year resident), a current cancer patient, and a mother of two young boys 5yrs and 2.5 yrs, it's an understatement to say that I'm well acquainted with the medical industry. I now view waiting for the doctor as a gift of unplanned "free" time. Time to read, catch up on e-mail, read stacks of books to my children, actually play with the boys because there is no other task calling, watch a movie, knit...the list is eternal of all the things I never seem to have time for except for when I'm waiting for the doctor...be it the treating kind or the husband/papa kind. Life is about perspective and is easier when we realize the only thing we can control is our perspective. Agian, thank you for sharing and blessings!

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    1. I love this Annie! Couldn't agree more with your "unplanned free time" comment. My husband is also an intern. :)

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  38. Thank you for this! My husband is a hospitalist and just missed his oldest son's 5th birthday because he was, you guessed it, working. Our kids are little and he often comes home just at the tail end of bedtime, and he leaves before I wake up. It's grueling, and much of the time he still takes calls at home and has quite a bit of notes and whatnot to complete from home. But whenever I start to feel grumpy about how hard my day is with him gone all the time, I try to remember that he's spent his day caring for seriously ill people, so maybe I should also lighten up! Thanks again for the post.

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  39. I can relate. We are past residency but the loans are now the motivation to get them paid. He wishes now that he would have taken another pat.

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  40. I followed a family Doc for two week during my undergrad. He never stopped moving for the 6 hours a day I was there. Sometimes things happen. I went back to him a few months after i finished my rotation and he was and hour late. Come to find out that his first patient was depressed and had tried to hang himself that morning. Right after that the next patient complained of having chest pain, numbness and tingling into his left arm (classic signs of a heart attack). You never know what is going on behind the scenes. They are all doing there best. So show up early and don't complain. They may have just saved a life.

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  41. Many doctors, especially community doctors like me, are not in control of our schedules. We are double and triple booked with appointments that have NO BUSINESS being scheduled like this. Many of us never get lunch, never get out in a timely manner to do things we want or need to do, get bullied verbally and physically by disgruntled patients, and earn a very poor salary in comparison to the number of hours we actually put in, yet we still do our often thankless job.

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  42. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am so used to negative press about physicians that I usually just hide, and keep working. It encourages me that so many people are expressing understanding and appreciation. Who knew?

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  43. Thank you for writing this! My husband is a second year surgical resident in Philadelphia and has been on nights for the past month. We see each other on Saturdays (when he's not passed out) and that's it right now. Sometimes it's hard not to feel selfish and want to see him more but your story helped me remember that when he's away he's doing something very important. It makes the missed birthdays, lonely holidays, and no-show date nights a lot easier to handle. Best of luck to you and your husband!

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  44. He who saves a life, saves them all

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  45. Hello all, well I have been working in the medical field for 9 years, I do it all! Receptionist, secretary, billing, rooming patients, assisting procedures (vasectomys are my favorite) basically if it needs to be done I'm there! Although I wouldn't tell the doctor I work for this on a regular basis but he works his ass off and I have so much respect for him! He is a urologist and does surgery everyday during lunch, before clinic and after clinic, sometimes both! He's broght his sick kids to work before because his wife is an oncologist as well! I'm pretty sure he hardly sleeps because he send messages at 3 am reguarding patients and then will so kindly remind me several times he sent me messages (not the sarcasticness)! He has clinic of about 40 per day but if we try to make it less the patients complain because we wolnt put them in same day for nonemergency! Then when you squeeze them in a spot so it is workable their schedule they complain because they waited for 15 minutes for a spot you told them you didn't have to begin with. I think I just got off subject there but there it is!

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  46. As the woman who likely made other women's OB late, I am thankful for the time my OB took away from her scheduled appointments to see me. I went into pre-term labor 6 weeks early for my daughter and spent 5 days in the hospital before delivering her. My OB put me before patients who had likely already been waiting, and for that, I'm thankful. After 13 days in the NICU, my little one was able to come home. I saw first hand how quickly an emergency arises in the NICU as I was visiting with my daughter when a new baby came in and another time when a baby's vitals dropped and didn't rise on their own. I didn't talk to the doctor before I had to leave for shift change, but I didn't mind. I could see that my baby was doing well, and I knew that other baby needed that doctor more than I needed to hear what I could plainly see, that my daughter was thriving. On the flip side, as a patient who sat for 3 hours feeling like a bloated whale, I'd have appreciated a simple, "We're running behind. Please be patient with us." That alone would have made me feel better instead of having the minutes and then hours tick by when I was exhausted, hugely pregnant, and sitting on seats that were not exactly comfortable after the first 2 hours with no word of when I'd be seen. I understand the wait now, considering the fact that I caused a delay myself later that week, but sometimes it seems like the staff ignore the fact that they're running late and the patients waiting would like some consideration. A simple notice wouldn't take up that much of the receptionist's time while she's speaking to you about updating insurance cards and all the routine questions.

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