How Many Patients Can I Squeeze In?

September 7, 2010

Remember that old childhood rhyme? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Well, here’s a new one. How many patients can a doc squeeze in if a doc could squeeze them in?

Remember that old childhood rhyme? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 

Well, here’s a new one. How many patients can a doc squeeze in if a doc could squeeze them in?

Trust me, I understand that from a purely business standpoint, it is great that I am booked to the gills less than a year after opening my office. And yes, I understand that to each individual, his or her problem is a priority, if not an emergency. And yes, I am honored that colleagues, friends, family and patients entrust me with the health and well-being of their friends, family, in-laws, neighbors and casual acquaintances. But the pressure! Oh, the pressure!

First, my staff has to deal with patients who range from incredulous (“Really? Three months for a new patient appointment? Are you serious?) to irate (“This is &$@! Are you #&%ing kidding me?!” CLICK). Then, I have to deal with the colleague, friend, or family member calling me asking me to please see so-and-so as a personal favor to them.

If only I could. If I could see everyone who asks to be seen, and everyone who needs to be seen, and still have time to eat and pee, I would. But I can only see one patient at a time. And I have two small children and a husband. Plus a house to keep, and laundry to do, and a business to run. And I do need to eat and pee from time to time. So I feel I must appropriately triage these potential patients when I can.

So, who goes first? The pregnant girl with Graves’? The post-thyroidectomy cancer patient? The diabetic with an Hba1c of 14? The hypothyroid lady with the TSH of 96? Or do I prioritize my colleague’s rabbi’s daughter whose OB thinks she might have some sort of thyroid or pituitary problem? Or my trainer’s client’s husband who just doesn’t like his current endocrinologist? Or my husband’s co-worker’s relative who thinks she might have Hashimoto’s and maybe thyroid cancer because it hurts when she swallows?

And why is it that the patients who may or may not have something but who try to pull strings are the same ones who scream at and hang up on my receptionist? You would think that someone asking for a favor would be using honey and not vinegar. I tell my children all the time, “You can’t cry or throw a tantrum when you don’t get what you want.” Well, how can I expect a six-year-old to understand that when a 40-year-old woman just had a hissy fit, said we are “ridiculous” and “call me when you have something better?”

And much as I say to myself, “There only so much you can do,” it upsets me when I can’t accommodate everybody. I feel kind of badly today, too, because I got snippy with my husband when he called me minutes after Miss Six-degrees-of-separation told my receptionist “Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna tell her husband!” and hung up on her.

Seriously? Has he not heard my stories of the rabbi’s daughter? Has he not heard me say I don’t know what to do with all these people? I told him that he has access to the schedule - go find a spot and let me know where it is and I’ll put her there. Do you want me to start working weekends? Holidays? He unfortunately had to take the brunt of the frustration that has been building up in me for months. Needless to say, Miss Six-degrees is just going to have to wait.