I decided today that I want to get a new doctor. I already picked her out. It's Dr. Mas, my kids' pediatrician. I know, I know, I'm too old. Last time I called my own doctor, about an annoying little issue I was having, I mentioned to the nurse on the phone that maybe I should make an appointment to come in, since I was due for a check-up anyway. She laughed. "Oh, I don't think well be able to fit you in until after the first of the year, Lauren" she said. Ok, but why was it funny? Why is it so amusing that I might actually think I could have a legitimate medical concern and come in and be seen to have it taken care of?
Let me explain why I want to go to Dr. Mas from now on. I called there this morning, because Fiona has a little bug and is running a temp of 102-103, which is just a tad higher than what I think is acceptable in my one year olds. The nurse responded to my call within a half hour, though I emphasized to the secretary when I called that it wasn't urgent. I explained my concern when she called me back and said, "I was just wondering if I should bring her in so someone could take a peek at her?". "Yes, I think you should." she responded immediately. "Is 12:15 ok for you?".
Last time I called there, to find out if I could give Fiona the higher dose of Tylenol yet, the nurse urged me, "Don't hesitate to call us tomorrow if the temperature isn't better, or if you just want Dr. Mas to have a look" (tomorrow was Saturday). "Dr. Mas will be here till noon tomorrow." My kids have a doctor who works on Saturdays. No fair. I want her for myself. The well-child waiting room has a flat screen television with Shrek playing most days. They give you a sticker even if you're not totally brave when you get your shots. They treat the customer like, well, a customer. My doctor's office, bless them, treats me like a complete nuisance.
The interesting thing, as a nurse myself, that I notice about this situation, is that the doctor herself (or himself) doesn't set the tone for this sort of thing. The average time spent dealing with the actual doctor (even Dr. Mas) is negligible when compared with the time spent talking and interacting with the office staff. The nurse who calls me back. The secretary who takes my call in the first place. The person at the desk who talks to me about billing and setting up new appointments. These are the people who make or break your day. As one of those people myself, its a constant reminder that, even though I rarely get credit for either making or breaking someone's day, the power to do either is in my hands. Nobody wants to be sick. Its a real pain in the neck, and often happens at the worst possible time. In the end, though I don't in fact have the option of switching my care to the pediatrician, I do have the option to take my business elsewhere. Someday, maybe I'll find an adult practitioner whose office treats the little kid inside.