Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fit me in!

When I was in residency, one of my awesome responsibilities in Pain Clinic was to return phone calls from patients. They all started kind of like this:

Patient: "I'm in pain. I need an appointment immediately and you need to fix me right now."

It was especially fun when the primary Pain attending went on vacation, as in this particular situation:

Patient: "I'm in pain. I need an appointment immediately and you need to fix me right now."

Me: "Dr. Medrol is out for the rest of the week."

Patient: "I'm in pain! I need an appointment immediately and you need to fix me RIGHT NOW!"

Me: "Um."

Patient: "I can come in tomorrow morning."

Me: "Let me consult with my... um, colleague, and I'll call you back."

Patient: "I can't even sleep."

Me: "OK, I understand. Let me call you back."

I hung up with that patient and spoke with an alternate attending, Dr. Lidocaine. He heard the whole story and kindly agreed to overbook the patient for 10:45 tomorrow morning.

Me: "OK, patient. We can give you an appointment for tomorrow morning at 10:45AM." [waits to be showered with thanks]

Patients: "That's too early!"

Me: "Fuck you."

I didn't really say that, but seriously? He asks for an appointment tomorrow morning and 10:45 is too early? What time did he think the morning clinic started? 5PM?

Fortunately, Dr. Lidocaine heard me starting to tell off that patient, and quickly ran over to me and whispered that he'd see the patient at 11:30AM, preventing me from launching into a speech to the patient about how we were going out of our way for him and he didn't even appreciate it, you bastard.


  1. We have heard similar stories from a friend who works in a doctors office. Some patients take no responsibility for their appointments at all. Makes it extremely difficult for doctors to do their jobs.

  2. I've been in chronic pain (undiagnosed thoracic outlet syndrome) and I would NEVER say no to an early appointment. That makes no sense!! Granted, I also never demanded to see a doctor because I never took anything more than aleve for my pain.

  3. this happens ALL the time....i work in an internal medicine clinic. i am totally boggled by some people who, when "fit in" the schedule, "can't make" that time and demand a different time. uh...we are fitting you in??? crazy.

  4. I once had an acquaintance whose 3 year old was running a 104 fever. She called the pediatrician in a panic, who told her to bring the kid right in. No, that would have interfered with her tennis lesson...

  5. Oh, you've hit such a nerve with me!!! I become so unglued thinking about it, I can't even write a coherent response about this topic....

  6. After 20+ years my PCP (and his staff) have learned when I call and ask (very nicely) for a same day appointment (not all that often considering my complicated health history); something is VERY, VERY wrong. Any and all accommodations are ALWAYS made and whatever time they say, I am there........VERY APPRECIATIVE I might add! I have never understood this sense of entitlement so many have (not just with their doctors but w/any profession). I find it so incredibly frustrating, rude and, well, it really pissed me off!

  7. Dr. Lidocaine sounds like a stand-up guy. Geez. I really hate it when patients don't show up, too. CALL. jerk.

    1. Yeah, he was pretty nice. I kind of had a crush on him.

  8. I concur with above. You had a very good attending.

  9. And these are the SAME PEOPLE who will complain and threaten to "report you" if they are seen late because you are "fitting in" emergencies...

  10. In my modest experience people who write stellar letters to CEO about, because among all other things they were seen exactly on time (because patient immediately before them did not show) will write a nasty letter about you the next time when they have to wait.