Is It Really Too Much to Ask?


Why is it that doctors and/or clinics think their time is more important than the patients they serve? Is the red tape truly necessary to provide relief? Today I had what I anticipated to be an important doctor’s appointment. It quickly disintegrated into a total waste of time. A test was ordered which could easily have been done without all of the fanfare by phone or fax.
It had been several years since I had seen this particular specialist so naturally it was necessary to fill out paperwork. It took less time and a number of forms to purchase our home.

My husband Rick and I, bless his heart were met by a less than enthusiastic nurse who looked as though her shoes were two sizes too small. Her pinched little face beckoned for my sympathy so I let her incompetence slide . She took my temperature with a thermometer that goes over the forehead : 101◦. Hmmm.. My normal temp is around 97. She thought it was too high and said she wanted to use the ‘under the tongue’ dinosaur. I mentioned that I had a piece of ice in my mouth at the time but she was undeterred. She was much happier with 96.2… I was not. One of my symptoms has been running a low grade fever of about 99.5◦. Happy with her cleverness she proceeded to take my blood pressure with a cute little watch that looked like my granddaughter’s Nintendo DS. She announced that my blood pressure was a bit high as she wrote it down. When I asked HOW high she said 156/88. That isn’t high for me, it’s through the roof. A lifelong history of low BP hovering at best around 103/66 set off my ” no way Jose” alarm! A bit disgruntled, she took it again from the other arm: 119/70. Ok, I could live with that. (Far longer than with the first I can assure you.)
At this point I thought it would be a good idea to mention the ice and thermometer again. I could tell she was beginning to lose her objectivity so I smiled to soothe the waters. Out the door she went with a little flourish and was back instantly with another between the eyeballs thermometer. This time it was 99.5. I smiled again.

Rather than see the specialist my doctor ordered, a nurse practitioner appeared. I understand the use of para physician professionals but not for a complex issue they were well aware of before I came in. The insurance companies are going the extra mile to ensure the cheapest payout possible for expensive imaging tests. There is no other explanation for what followed. She did not look at my records before I came in. I could have been a 4′ 11″ male stripper and she wouldn’t have known the difference. She knew she was supposed to ask me questions but could not quite remember which ones or why. Though she could find no lab reports, all relevant history was there on her computer monitor. I am unfamiliar with the computer software used by this clinic but I could figure it out sitting on the examination table. I realized that if Rick and I were ever going to go home and eat supper I would have to encourage the questioning, which I did. Her own line of questioning was irrelevant to my purpose for this visit. I arrived knowing full well the tests I needed. To help move things on a bit, Rick offered go to the car and bring in my Handy Dandy Medical Notebook which I never leave home without. Her confusion began to lift and relief took the place of the constipated look that everyone in the clinic seemed to share today.

The bottom line is that I got an order for a liver panel and one for an MRCP, all of which could have been done over the phone. After ironing my clothes, taking a shower and dabbing on a bit of make- up, I was given the privilege of watching a woman struggle with her laptop . My price tag was $300.00, a stressful afternoon and a long car ride to Boise. Rick took off work thinking someone was going to have some medical answers for us. Though I may sound frustrated with the woman, I’m not. Nurse practitioners have a much needed and respected place in the medical arena. My sister has been a nurse and midwife for longer than many of you have been alive. ( You are welcome, Gail no disrespect intended).

A doctor once mentioned to me that he wished his patients would stay off the Internet for medical information. At the time I agreed with his argument that a little information is a dangerous thing and the average non-medical person can do more harm than good self diagnosing their issues. While that is a valid argument, I have come to know that it is the feeding of curious minds who refuse to blindly circle the health care carousel that causes their angst, not the true concern over making a potentially life threatening mis-diagnosis.

We both knew the visit was hopeless when I had to guide her with the correct questions. She ordered the needed tests and gratefully the awkwardness was over. As the three of us collectively wiped our foreheads we all but ran to the door to escape.

Clinic and hospital protocol give me a headache and the overwhelming urge to toss my cookies. The feeling of awe and relief of getting well I use to have upon entering a doctors’ office in years past has been successfully replaced by the need to have my HDN, an aspirin and my iPad just in case.