I need 36 hours in a day and two pairs of hands

April 26, 2010

I shouldn’t complain. Venturing out on my own has not been the financial disaster my former senior partner predicted despite the often miserable reimbursements. I have a steady stream of patients and the schedule is reasonably busy. After six months of practice, the current wait for a new patient is six weeks. For the coveted late afternoon slots, it’s about two months.

I shouldn’t complain. Venturing out on my own has not been the financial disaster my former senior partner predicted despite the often miserable reimbursements. I have a steady stream of patients and the schedule is reasonably busy. After six months of practice, the current wait for a new patient is six weeks. For the coveted late afternoon slots, it’s about two months.

So, yes, life is good. For me, anyway. For the most part. But for the patients who call and want to be seen ASAP, and for my poor office staff who get yelled at on a daily basis by these same patients, not so much. Not a day goes by that a patient doesn’t pour out her sob story, or name-drop, or just get plain nasty with my staff. Like doing any of those things will miraculously make a new appointment slot appear. Some of them hang up threatening (?) to find another doctor, only call back two hours later because at ever other practice the wait is six months.

I understand their frustration - their fear even. If your primary care doc says “You need to get in to see her right away,” you want an appointment right away. And yet, what am I to do? I can only see one patient at a time. I refuse to double book. I refuse to make patients wait for two hours because I am behind schedule. I get patients all the time who say they left another practice because they had to wait for two, three, or even 10 - oh, yes, 10! - hours to be seen. So while they may wait six weeks to come in and see me, once they are here, they are seen promptly and have my undivided attention. I’m not looking at the clock thinking, “Oh my God, I have eight more patients to see in the next 45 minutes”.

So what do I do? Do I accept the way things are, and say “sorry, such is life”? I will gladly take suggestions … or a time machine.