Jingle by Calvin Di Nicolo

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Waiting

 

By Roberto Di Nicolo, M.D.
Daytona Beach News-Journal circa 1994

 

 

Life is peppered by stereotypes. Here is a medical tale of some time ago that might just prove one such stereotype wrong.

 

Just like other patients, doctors loathe waiting at the doctor's office. While waiting is time consuming, boring and downright upsetting to all of us, we often fail to realize that the reasons behind doctors' delays are almost always related to the unpredictability of caring for ill people, and have little to do with entertainment.

 

Once upon a time I was waiting in a local physician's waiting room. I had scheduled my appointment at noon, during my lunch break. I figured that I had plenty of time to get back to my office on time, and I did not need to rearrange my busy afternoon. The doctor proved me wrong. I got there early, about ten minutes ahead of schedule, imagining that I would be received immediately.

 

Upon greeting me, the receptionist warned me that the doctor was running a little late. While I did not enjoy waiting at all, I must confess that when I passed the thirty minutes waiting time (20 minutes after my appointment time), I was ready to leave. I wondered if anyone else was getting impatient but as I looked around the waiting room, I noticed that two other people ahead of me were reading calmly. I could not help wondering why the doctor was so late. The idea that a fancy lunch with his wife or even possibly a golf game must have been the cause of this great delay started to take shape.

 

 

Was my physician and ex-good friend playing golf knowing that I had an appointment to discuss medical matters? Was his game so bad or was he so careless not to remember that I was waiting and that I had patients of my own waiting to discuss serious medical problems? Were my medical problems less important than his lunch, or his putting? At this point, his nurse kindly announced that the doctor was running late due an emergency at the hospital. "Sure", I thought: "He is probably jumping in the shower at the club right now". A little later I even thought I heard the cleats on the tile floor near the back door.

 At the 45 minute mark I was ready to ask for my medical records, so that I could take them to a more caring physician. While I was approaching the window, the nurse finally called my name. My conversation with my doctor was less than excellent. We hardly talked about anything medical. I was too angry to even remember why I was there, and he was too apologetic about the emergency at the hospital, which I figured never took place (and I was wrong). Ironically my waiting in the doctor's lobby created an interesting chain reaction. The more I waited for my doctor's appointment, the longer I kept my own patients waiting at my office across town. When I finally got back to my office, I sneaked in the back door. I felt a little guilty about being late but I certainly had a good reason for my delay. I was at least 45 minutes late when I walked in the exam room. As I greeted my first patient, jokingly she asked: "How was your tennis match?"