Sartre Was Right

Do you ever feel like you’re speaking a totally different language from someone you’re trying so desperately to communicate with? Excuse the dangling participle, I’m trying to make a point here.

I’m a pretty good communicator. I mean, at least I think I am. But sometimes when I go to the doctor it’s like I’m speaking gibberish. After my monumental wait at the PCP’s yesterday (see blog post below…and by the way, it was Jean-Paul Sartre, genius indeed…) I was brought into the waiting room for my doctor visit; things continued quickly downhill from there.

I was already cranky, I admit it. In addition to the things I was complaining about in my post, a rather strange and scary woman tried to talk to me in the waiting room a few times, and it really freaked me out. Apparently she’s the local eccentric and I was told by staff that they just ignore her – but it still scared me.

So. I was brought into the waiting room and told to undress and put on a gown. The conversation went more or less like this:

Her: So, take off all your clothes and put on this gown, and he’ll be in in a minute.

Me: Um – the doctor is a male? I thought I set up an appointment with a female.

Her: Nope.

Me: Um, okay – um, why do I have to take off my clothes?

Her: So he can examine you.

Me: Um, okay, can you tell me specifically what he’s going to do?

Her: You know, listen to your heart and stuff.

Me: He needs me to take off my clothes for that?

Her: [Getting increasingly annoyed], Yes.

Me: Do I have to?

You can see where this is going. The more nervous I get, the more annoyed she gets. So, she left and closed the door, and I sat down and cried. I did. Then I told myself I was overreacting, and read the book I had in my purse for 10 more minutes until the doctor arrived.

Does this sound like an overreaction? If you don’t know me, yes, I’m sure it does. Even those who do know me might think so. But, when I was a teenager I had a bad experience with a doctor, so I choose all my doctors very carefully.  I don’t have a problem with removing my clothes, or even with procedures. I have a problem with not knowing what is going to be done to me.

I’m not going to go into any more detail about my past experience or the one with this doctor, but what I will say is that all doctors need to know what’s going on before they enter the room. How is the patient greeted at the reception desk? (Yesterday, I was greeted by a medical technician who actually said to me, “sometimes I don’t know why I’m still working here.) The first person who greets the patient is still, to the patient, part of the care process, and needs to act like a professional. I know that this person gets access to my medical records, which I consider quite private, so how do I feel when that person is acting like a doofus?

And what about the waiting room? Sure, it should be clean. Old-as-sin magazines, okay. But are there people in the waiting room making others uncomfortable? Is there a separate area for contagious people?

The medical technician who brought me into the office didn’t introduce herself to me. I thought she was a nurse, which is why I was asking her so many questions. Her lack of knowledge negatively escalated the situation. If she had just told me she didn’t know the answer, we could have found someone else to help.

Finally, before a patient enters the doctor’s office, there’s a world of experience each has had that has brought them to this point. Some are coming to the doctor for the first time, and some are old hat. But most, I’d think, have some anxiety about the visit. If you choose to work in healthcare, you should CARE. Take care, be gentle, assume that the person standing before you needs to trust you with his or her life. That is no small thing.


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