Waiting (And Waiting!) In The Doctor's Office & Revisiting Bus Driver/Monitors
What to love and loathe about living in East Greenwich this week.
RAVE: I, like pretty much every other parent, was mesmerized last June watching the video (Click here for the video if you somehow missed it) of that poor bus monitor get verbally abused by a bunch of small town New York middle school [rhymes with brittle bits]. But then other summer occupations – like letting my brain bake at the beach – got in the way and I have to admit that I sort of forgot all about it. (Update – there was an incredible outpouring of support and even a donation page http://www.indiegogo.com/loveforkarenhklein which raised almost $600,000 and an anti-bullying foundation set up at http://news.karenkleinfoundation.org).
Then, the other day, another gang of middle school [rhymes with whittle kits] assaulted a bus driver in Richmond, Virginia, and seriously injured him. The events leading up to the attack are still under investigation but the students have been charged with aggravated assault and assault by a mob.
So back to my post last week. Folks, I was not maligning bus drivers or monitors. Here’s why: Karen Klein’s response to being called horrible things? A desire to go back to work. Because, as she said in a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle interview, “…not all kids are bad.”
Sure, there are a few bad seeds – drivers/monitors who are overly punative or permissive, under-ly protective or pleasant, but let’s face it, this is a tough job and most who do it do it with a cheerful smile and a warm heart. So La Dolce Vita, I don’t have to walk the walk (nor do I have the slightest desire to do so any more than you should want me to do so because frankly, my morning face and attitude is not what you want greeting your child every day) to appreciate what bus drivers/monitors do.
In fact, when you think about it, being a bus driver/monitor is one of the most important jobs around. We entrust these people with our little darlings – who, let’s face it, are sometimes less than darling. We give them the responsibility to drive said not-always-so-darling children safely over many miles while maintaining some semblance of peace and order, dealing with bullying, tears and general mayhem and somehow expect them to do all this while keeping a cheery smile on their faces. And guess what – most of them manage to do just that. When my kids rode the bus, the driver gave everyone gifts on the holidays, took them out for ice cream the last day of school and always remembered each child’s birthday.
You know, we have Teacher Appreciation Day, Employee Appreciation Day, Secretary Appreciation Day, Husband Appreciation Day, even Cow Appreciation Day. And there is indeed a Bus Driver Appreciation Day (it falls sometime in October). We just don’t seem to hear about it. So let’s not wait for some wonk in DC to declare an official national day. Let’s start our own East Greenwich Gratitude Day for our town’s bus drivers and monitors. Anyone? Everyone?
By the way, this doesn’t mean I am any happier about waiting behind a bus when the parents and driver/monitor chat. But, as a friend who works in Woonsocket gently pointed out, at least the parents are there to drop off/greet the kids and be involved in their day. Reality check.
RANT: For a small town, we sure have a lot of medical facilities. Don’t get me wrong – I much prefer even a surfeit of proctology offices to a series of strip malls “full” of empty store fronts. And I am sure there are all sorts of financial and real estate desirability advantages to having these businesses in our town. They certainly make my health care a snap, which is no small thing at my age when I seem to have to get my BP, blood, bones and other bits and pieces checked ever more increasingly – it’s like one-stop doc shopping on South County Trail.
But I ask you, when did the appointment time at the doctor’s office become an ideal rather than a reality?
OK, I know. Part of the blame lies with us. A study by one medical records company found that patients – or clients, as we are now apparently called (probably because few of us live up to the moniker “patient”) – arrive, on average, 11 minutes late to appointments. But I suspect that’s because these people are calculating that they then will have to wait only 20 minutes or so as opposed to the usual 30 minutes minimum.
Part of the blame lies with the healthcare system which requires doctors to meet, greet, investigate and diagnose patients in less time than it takes to cook up a Lean Cuisine. Of course they fall behind schedule.
Part of the blame lies with the office manager who is pressured by the system to make appointments with no-shows built in. So, if everyone, or even mostly everyone, shows, everyone waits.
And, of course, part of the blame – not that I would call it that – lies with emergencies. Medical care is not a predictable thing and sometimes real life – and death – intervenes.
I do not blame the doctors. I know they are not being inconsiderate, selfish or insensitive or running to get an espresso on my time. I know that they are dealing with everything from the patient – sorry, client – who thought they had a stomach ache and it turns out to be gastric cancer to the client who made an appointment because of a painful knee and then proceeds to enumerate every ache and pain they have experienced in the past five years.
But here’s the thing – I always call or, at the very least, ask when I check in if the doctor is on time. And never, ever has the receptionist admitted that I would be waiting anything more than 15 minutes. Yet I often end up twiddling my thumbs for 20, 40 – even 60! – minutes! I was once fired by my dermatologist because I dared to express my anger – politely – after waiting for 90 minutes with no end in sight. I saw the Seinfeld episode where the dermatologist was treating skin cancer so I know she might have been taking care of something more important than my mole check. I just wanted an honest estimation of how much longer I would be kept waiting so I could decide if it was worth it or if I should rebook. This is what I told the reception. They told me – you got it – she would see me in 15 minutes! I said forget it and that I would use another dermatologist. But new dermatologists are hard to find. A lot of them don’t take on new patients. So I dithered. My husband said that no one would remember what would happen and that I should just go back to her. Since he is a doctor, I thought he was speaking with insider info. So I ate crow and called the dermatologist and asked for the first morning appointment (my strategy for dealing with this perennial lateness). Fifteen minutes later, the receptionist called back and said the doctor no longer wanted me as a patient. What made me even angrier was that I had fired her first but thought I was giving her a second chance!
I recently heard on CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/06/30/time.worth.money.cohen/index.html) of a doctor in New York who gives patients $5 in cash if they have to wait longer than 15 minutes for their appointment. Another physician in Oregon gives gifts of handmade soap or lotion whenever patients have more than a 10-minute wait to see her (forget having her as my doctor, I want to have her as my friend). Judging from the 1,200-plus comments, the CNN article obviously hit a hot topic. I have also heard of people who say that the no-show and late-fee agreement they make with the doctor (and yes, most of us do unwittingly sign similar forms) works both ways and give the doctor a bill if they are kept waiting more than 30 minutes. I’m not really sure what the solution is – but I would like to try that last one I’d like to try with my plumber!