Calling all doctors to be on time

Sunday, January 8, 2006

SHE SAID: Last year, I started an alphabetical list of medical professionals who have files with my name on them.

From allergist to cardiologist to dermatologist to neurologist to ophthalmologist to radiologist ... and so on.

If I can come up with a Z and a Q, I'll have a full set. Unfortunately, my regular doctor hasn't found a reason to refer me to a zoologist yet, and I'm not sure if any field of science/medicine begins with Q.

So I've become somewhat of an expert on the local medical community. And if I could give any gift to the city of Cape Girardeau, it would not be $100 bills for every household or a new city park or even the abolition of roundabouts.

It would be the Callie Clark Miller official doctors' office waiting list, detailing the average length of time spent waiting to see each health care professional in the area.

For example, there is one local specialist (it's one of the G's in my collection) whose nurse consistently tells me to show up at, say, 2:15 p.m. and assures each time the doctor will see me within 15 minutes.

After the first two or three visits during which I sat watching bad soaps and flipping through outdated Ladies' Home Journals for 45-minute intervals (with no other patients in the room), I realized that the nurse is full of it.

That's when I hatched my plan for the official doctors' office waiting list.

See, I now know not to show up at the appointed time for the G specialist. Instead, I show up 30 minutes later than the nurse requests, I'm seen within 15 minutes, and everybody is happy.

So what if that could be arranged for every doctor who is consistently late with appointments?

Wouldn't the world, or at least the doctors' office waiting room part of it, be a happier place?

I shared my plan with Bob, who said such a list is the fastest way for a patient to get blackballed.

"I don't want to have to drive you to St. Louis for all your medical care," he added.

So, to all the doctors who are perpetually late: If such an official doctors' office waiting list should appear, I am not behind it.

HE SAID: I remember when I was a kid, my dad would blow his top when he had to wait in doctors' offices. He would embarrass me, but now I'm beginning to understand his wrath.

Callie and I are both professionals. We both have appointments to keep, places to be, things to do. Sure, things come up occasionally and we'll have to postpone an interview or miss a meeting. But not with the consistency of doctors.

I understand that doctors are dealing with people's physical needs, which is more important than an interview, and that emergencies pop up. But if my planning was so poor as to never be on time, to never keep an appointment, I wouldn't find myself holding a job for long.

In addition to Callie's advice of coming in late, I'd like to offer a few waiting room tips:

* Always bring a book.

This is key for guys, especially if the husband is co-attending one of the G doctor's visits. Unless you want to be stuck reading a home-interior magazine from 1997, or watching an episode of "Days of Our Lives," you're on your own. If you're not into reading, take an iPod or a portable CD player.

* Be prepared to put the book away. You're partner will invariably get bored of reading the 1997 home-interior magazine and will want to talk about her prognosis. Your partner will know if you're tuning her out. Just buck up and listen to her, put your arm around her, and make the appropriate nods and looks of sincerity.

* Whatever you do, when your partner wants to talk, don't change the conversation to, say, baseball strategy.

* Play a game. No book? No TV? Pull out a scrap of paper and play hangman or the dot game or tic-tac-toe. It beats counting the dots on the ceiling.

* Ask to change the channel. I learned this lesson last year during the Cardinals' run to the playoffs. St. Louis was playing a day game and I was stuck -- er, being supportive -- in the waiting room. Then this old codger came in, walked straight up to the front desk and asked if he can turn on the ballgame. Depending on the crowd in the room, this may not always be doable. But let me tell you, that old man was my hero.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 122

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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