Next time you are stuck in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, read this.
A few years ago, a video published by Cleveland Clinic made its way around the internet. It’s a tear-jerker. It’s called Empathy and can be found on YouTube. If you’ve never watched it, you should. It takes you on a walk-through of various parts of a hospital – the front entrance, hallways, elevator, cafeteria, etc. – and silently labels what each person is going through.
“Just found out he’s going to be a dad.”
“19-year-old son on life support.”
“Visiting Dad for the last time.”
I watched this video when I was in residency, and it really put things into perspective for me. You never know what someone else is going through.
No one goes to the hospital for fun. Everyone has a reason to be there. Everyone has something going on. Keep that in mind next time you get frustrated with the car in front of the hospital that’s going too slow. Or the person rushing past you to get into the elevator. Or the person who gets called from the office waiting room before you, even though you’ve already been waiting 30 minutes. You never know what someone else is going through.
My OB/GYN office is located on the second floor of my hospital, directly above the labor unit on the first floor. Most days, I am scheduled to see between 20 to 30 patients over the course of a few hours. My office schedule is a mixture of pregnancy visits, procedure visits, annual gynecologic exams, and problem visits. When everything is going well with my patients, I am more likely to stay on time, or close to it. However, every visit has the potential to become more complicated than expected.
Sometimes, a couple shows up to find out that their long-awaited pregnancy is not viable. Sometimes, a patient has a new breast lump that wasn’t there last year. Sometimes, a patient has experienced a devastating loss since the last time I saw her. Sometimes, a patient’s struggle with infertility, pelvic pain, postpartum depression (I could go on— you get the picture) is enough to bring her to tears. This could literally be the worst day of someone’s life. You never know what someone else is going through.
Not to mention the possibility of a laboring patient delivering during office hours – babies don’t wait for a gap in the schedule to arrive. Emergencies don’t wait, either. If your baby’s heart tones were down and you needed an emergent C-section, would you want me to finish seeing a few more patients in the office before running downstairs? You never know what someone else is going through.
Most of my patients understand that events in the OB/GYN world don’t always go according to plan, and oftentimes I will end up running late. I appreciate your patience so much, and I will do my best not to rush your visit once I get there. If you’ve already waited 60 minutes for your 10-minute OB appointment, what good would it do to cut your visit short? Maybe then I can only be 57 minutes late for the next person? No. I keep trucking along through the schedule, doing my best to provide the same care to everyone that I would provide if I were perfectly on time. You’ve waited long enough – you deserve to have a normal visit.
Please trust that when I’m running late, I am not in my office enjoying an extended lunch, shopping on Amazon, painting my nails, etc. Some days, I am lucky to eat lunch at all. My mom has retired now, but we used to share an office. We would joke that the extremely hectic days are the “orange dust” days because we only had time for a bag of Cheetos for lunch, sometimes not until 3 p.m. Every day I work, I wonder if I will get home before my four boys eat dinner or go to bed. I am trying. You never know what someone else is going through (your doctor included).
Your doctor is a person, too. We aren’t running late for fun. We are trying. Every medical setting is short-staffed due to COVID-19 right now. Please give everyone some grace. I would love to have a day of uncomplicated OB/GYN visits, but I went through my training so that I know how to deal with situations that aren’t straightforward. My mom always says, “If you want to get out of bed in the morning knowing exactly how your day is going to go, do not go into obstetrics.”
I love my job and the uncertainty that comes with it. We navigate some very happy and some very sad situations with patients. If you are getting frustrated waiting for your visit, look around the waiting room and realize that you never know what someone else is going through.
Carrye Daum is an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com, Carrye Daum