Monday, March 18, 2013

What a waitress can teach a doctor

A couple of weeks ago Jeff's finger was the unfortunate casualty of an encounter with his car door.  That encounter resulted in lots of blood, an unplanned early morning jaunt to the ER, much pain and many stitches, and a broken finger.  The next day we saw an orthopedic surgeon who informed us that Jeff would need surgery to repair his finger and prevent something disgustingly titled, "bone infection."  So, we scheduled the surgery for the following Tuesday.  We dutifully got the girls off to  school that morning and went to the surgery center for the procedure that was "scheduled for 11:00," but of course they asked us to be there an hour early to check in and complete any paperwork, etc.

In hindsight, I'm amused by the "be there an hour early" requirement.

As we waited, and waited, and waited, it became apparent that surgery would not begin at 11:00.  Or 12:00.  When we were called back to pre-op at 12:45, I was hopeful that maybe we'd be getting closer to actually having the surgery.  The nurses took care of all of the blood work  setting up an IV, and taking his vitals in about 15 minutes.  So we settled in to watch the Karate Kid while we waited.  Another hour passed and still no sign that surgery was coming anytime soon.  Jeff was resting, in an out of sleep, and I was just growing increasingly aggravated   At this point the nurses even stopped checking in on us.

Finally at about 2:30 I went to talk to the nurse on duty.  There was basically no one else even around.  Though I knew the whole situation was not her fault, she heard an earful.  She apologized profusely and with lots of "yes, ma'am's" she called the OR to check on the doctor's status.  About 15 minutes later the doctor's OR nurse came in and she had to hear it from me as well. I wasn't surprised, but the doctor didn't come back to talk to us before surgery, I'm sure he'd been duly warned that there was an angry redhead in pre-op 1.

So here's my point:  I completely understand that doctors are incredibly busy and the unexpected often occurs in the medical field   I have the utmost respect for the burden doctors carry - trying to juggle many patients, their families, the things they've scheduled and the emergencies that arise.  I cannot, however, excuse the complete disregard for the waiting that patients and families have to endure with no explanation for what's going on or when we might expect to actually see the doctor or have the surgery we were "scheduled" for four hours earlier.

Lie to me.  Tell me there was a massive trauma and the doctor has been called to emergency surgery at another hospital.  Don't let us sit watching Karate Kid (and the first forty-five minutes of Karate Kid 2) with zero communication about our situation.  It's inconsiderate and disrespectful.

I was a waitress in college for a couple of years.  One of the worst parts about being a waitress was having to apologize for food that was wrong or late.  When a  table had been waiting for their food for an inordinate amount of time, I wanted to avoid them.  I didn't want to have to apologize for the kitchen and fill drinks and hear complaints.  But I can say that the experience of being in the shoes of the table sitting there waiting for their food with no waiter in sight made me do the uncomfortable and put myself into the discomfort.  People are better when we know what to expect.

Is it going to be another 15 minutes?  Tell me.

Is it going to be another two hours?  Just tell me.

I may be unhappy, disappointed, angry even.  But most of the time, we will endure it if we know what to expect.

[stepping of soapbox]

1 comment:

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