Friday, May 02, 2008

Bedside Manners

This morning I read about how health officials now fear a measles outbreak could potentially be a massive disaster in the USA. Concerned, I called my doctor's office for basic information. His nurse answered. Let's call her Marianne, because she looks just like Marianne from Gilligan's Island.

(Now before we go any further, let me assure you that I call his office maybe 4-6 times a year (for prescriptions, etc) and I've only been in his office once in 6 months, so I can hardly be accused of being a nuisance or a hypochondriac.)

Saur: Hi there! I'm one of Dr. Frankenstein's patients, and I just read an article about how health officials are worried about a measles outbreak. Apparently there are a growing number of cases. Do you guys give measles injections or can you tell me if the one I had when I was very young is good enough?

Marianne: Well, I'm sure you have nothing to worry about.

Saur: Uh, well... could you just double check on that?

Marianne (grudgingly): OK, then, hold on a sec.

(a couple of minutes go by)

Marianne (snappily): I don't have any information on that. If you want any, you'll have to schedule an appointment with the doctor.

Saur: What? I have to schedule an appointment with the doctor just to find out if you offer a measles vaccine and to see if it's anything to worry about? Is this what ALL the patients with inquiries have to do?

Marianne: Um... No...?

Saur: I tell you what. Why don't you just catch the doctor at some point today - it's no rush - and ask in passing what he thinks about this and if an adult would need to get a new vaccine, OK?

Marianne (grudgingly): OK. I'll do it.

Saur: And can you just call me back when you have an answer?

Marianne: OK.

Saur (pasting a fake smile into her voice): Great! Thanks a lot! Talk to you soon!

If this is the way she treats his infrequent patients, how does she treat the ones who are in there constantly (their main clientelle is the elderly)?

Over the years, I have increasingly seen a decrease in politeness in our society, especially amongst nurses in both the hospitals and doctors offices. But whatever happened to a nurse having a bedside manner? Would it really kill Marianne to be a little more customer-friendly? Or has she decided that these are captive patients who will not or cannot go elsewhere for treatment?

We are told that with the increased aging in the population, we can expect that medical services will be the hottest careers going. Perhaps it's time for the medical community to begin to rethink the patient and realize that the patient is also a consumer.

The Baby Boomer generation (which includes my parents) is a generation that knows what they want, and expects good customer service and superior care. I do not think they will tolerate people with no patience for patients.


Groovy Mom said...

Geez, I think you need to find a new doctor's office. Then you could write a letter and explain why you're switching. My doctor's office is so good about communicating with patients. I get a monthly email newsletter all about current health concerns. They have a consulting nurse available for just those kinds of questions, so I'm never afraid to call and talk with a nurse about a concern.

Uncle Joe said...

I just want you to know that the real MaryAnne would have never treated you like that.

I called my cardiologist's office one time after my pacemaker/defib was put in with what I thought was a serious question and she (whoever answered the phone) and I went back and forth and back and forth and she told me she didn't really want to bother the Dr. with that question. Afraid he might think we're both crazy.
I thought I had a legitimate question.
It was about wearing my seat belt which lay right across my defib implant and hurt when I put my seatbelt on.

Ed Abbey said...

That would be a perfect question to email the good doctor about but I just read that the large majority of doctors refuse to respond via email for various reasons ranging from malpractice suits to drastically increasing their time on the job.

For stuff like that, I usually refer to the internet medical sites where they typically answer that kind of stuff floating around on the news. Also, our local radio has an Ask Doctor Dean O'Dell show where you can call in and ask.

Frey said...

Well, she is the only nurse on the island. I'm not sure I want Ginger for my nurse... wait... yes I do.

I'm sure you have nothing to worry about?! Translation: I'm sure I don't care about you at all. I'm sure she's been monitoring the subject and will get advise you if anything changes.

I don't even trust most doctors who have been out of medical school for years to be up on any particular subject, let alone a nurse. I always educate myself on anything I go to see the doctor about and usually end up educating the doctor.

The Lazy Iguana said...

Just keep calling every 15 minutes. The squeaky rat gets the cheese.

Fred said...

When I call my doctor's office to get results from blood work, they usually can't find it for a week. She uses interns whenever possible and loses her best employees to the bigger offices.

I'd switch if I didn't like her so much.

krok14 said...


I hope you never have to use the emergency room. The blacks use it as their Doctor's Office.

Excellent post.

M@ said...

Where have you been? Nurses are the worst assholes ever.

Uncle Joe said...

come on over to jamiedawns.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Unca Joe, I did. Thanks. :P And as for your first post, what a ninny of a nurse. But it seems that mine is common among the sisterhood, then. Urk.

M@, Yeah, I guess so! What's really funny is that I know a guy who used to always look for nurses on My Space. I don't know if he had a nurse fetish or not, but I DO know he wouldn't have bothered if he'd though they were all ball-busters. And in my experience, there are a large share of them in that profession. ;o)

Krok, Another racist statement? Well, I guess it's par for the course. You know how much I like you, but there are times I'm pretty sure you're just throwing that in for controversy's sake. I hope.

BUT, anyway: Studies show that the ERs are used by the majority of illegal aliens to solve their medical probs (Michelle would back me if she blogged any more - she's confirmed it in the past and should know) BUT this is the reason waits are long and prices are high. Until we solve the illegal problem, we will not solve our ER problems.

Fred, Now that you mention it, I used to run into your same problem at my old doc's office. :P Maybe there's no hope.

Lazy, AND the painful shot the next time I need one for the flu. :P

Frey, so true. I am in complete agreement. My most recent visit to the doctor about my Nightmare Disorder was spent with him giving me advice, and my saying "I tried that but..." until he ran out of suggestions.

Ed, wouldn't it be nice to email a doctor? I wondered why they don't do that more often. Now I know why.

Groovy Mom, It sounds as if you're the exception, not the rule (more's the pity!)

R2K said...

: )

Jamie Dawn said...

Good customer service is hard to find. When you do run across a pleasant and helpful person whether in person or on the phone, it is like a breath of fresh air.
I'm hoping Marianne was having a bad day. If not, she shouldn't be in a people intensive profession.

Thanks for your intelligent comment left at Blog Church. Your debating skills are impressive!

daveawayfromhome said...

@ Fred: I read somewhere that, statistically, most malpractice suits can be attributed to the personality of the doctor, rather than actual incompetence - in other words, a really friendly doctor can practically get away with murder.

@ Saur: Emergency room care will never get any better or go down in price until we get some sort of Medical system that...
a) is not profit driven
b) cuts out the parasitic entity we call the insurance industry.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daveawayfromhome, I agree wholeheartedly.

Jamie Dawn, isn't that the truth? And thanks for the compliment - my pleasure.

R2K, back atcha, hon.

CrazyCath said...

That is the case in the UK too - it's like we are an inconvenience. And I am a nurse. Even so, I found it difficult to communicate and get information from my surgery. Just switched surgeries - so far the new one is great.
It might be worth considering.

You left a great comment at Jamie Dawn's btw.