Thursday, July 17, 2008

Medical Office Workers

Is it just me, or is the bulk of medical office workers a cranky, irritable bunch? I say this as a member of said profession, and feel myself more licensed to speak freely on account of this. Agh--it burns me up! That cheerless, monotone voice that greets you on the telephone after minutes of navigating through automated systems--the cheerless monotone voice that utters a few curt syllables before sending you back into the ethereal world of bad muzak and audio-mercials (I don't know the term for those lil blurbs during your hold time). How hard is it to offer a little intonation, a little emphasis or *gasp* a little human courtesy? I can gripe about phone etiquette all day long, seriously. My view is, if you don't know how to converse in a manner that exudes even a minimal veneer of kindness, then don't answer the phone (perhaps this explains the automated system?).

On the other hand: patients, do remember that the person you are speaking to is very busy, and it is not necessary for you to explain your plans for the entire day, and any opinions therein, in order for the employee to assist you. Also, it is not necessary for you to speak to the doctor. The doctor is seeing patients. You cannot be diagnosed over the phone (try putting the phone up to the puddle of blood, does this work?). Schedule an appointment, or go to the emergency room.

Today, I went to the office of an oral surgeon for a consultation. Impacted wisdom teeth, no biggie. I called an hour before my appointment to make sure my referral and x-rays are in place. I was answered with a sigh, and "hang on." After a few moments of hold music, the woman returned to the line and tersely replied, "Your things are here. See you in an hour." I felt like I had been a nuisance to this woman, and a detriment to her morning. And yet, it was very clearly stated on the intake forms--in all capital letters, no less--that the patient is responsible for securing x-rays and referrals. Even in abiding by office policy, I was an inconvenience.

Maybe they were mad because, on those intake forms, where everything was a barked order bordering on a threat, I found three spelling errors and circled them.

I was not greeted. The woman muttered "Can I help you?" without making eye contact, and while shuffling papers in an official manner. I shyly stated my name and presented my dental insurance card and my drivers license. Again, without looking at me, she said "You didn't bring your health insurance card?" I scrambled in my purse for the "requested" item and could feel the strain on the woman as she fought against rolling her eyes. I felt like a blundering idiot, and hoped against hope that no patient ever felt this way when entering my office. The recent offer of management rang in my memory, and I thought that I might just have to accept the offer on behalf of the common good, so that employees like these would no longer be allowed to intimidate patients--at least not under my watch.

As I was checking out (after being sufficiently impressed with the courtesy and 'bedside manner' of the oral surgeon) I was more comfortable, and the woman helping me was willing to smile. Once you've talked to the doctor, you enter a higher rank, I guess--or perhaps once its been determined that the insurance is legit. In the midst of our discussion regarding deductibles and annual maximums, a cellphone rang. Loudly. I recalled the domineering sign posted in front of the waiting room: "Absolutely NO cellphones. Turn cellphones OFF" The woman I was in mid-sentence with turned away from me and reached under the counter, producing a vibrating, singing, pink plastic monstrosity, and proceeded to answer it. She made her plans with the person on the phone, agreeing to meet after she got off of work at two. She hung up the phone and, without an apology or even an acknowledgement of the outrageous faux pas she has committed in front of my very eyes, asks when I would like to schedule the surgery.

I am livid. I am looking at other employees to see if anyone else has found this in the least bit out of place. No one seems to have noticed. So, now I'm helpless. I want to call her out for being unprofessional and straight out rude, but I'm stuck: I don't know which one of these ladies is going to be administering my anaesthesia, my IV, the nitrous...Do I really want to fly off the handle for what is apparently a common occurrence, and risk my own comfort? Call me paranoid, call me a wuss. I left without saying a word.


Matt said...

Oh, you corrected the spelling on the form? You did? OMFG that makes me so happy. If I had a nickel for every person I'd pissed off in that way, I'd be a zillionaire. I'm about to start waging a one-man Grammar and Spelling War at Borders #653, because it's run by morons and they can't Possibly fire me. We'll see.

Re: wisdom teeth--yeah, I was pretty nervous about that, but it's actually a pleasant memory. The anesthesia was extremely effective and they gave me very nice pills. I took a weekend off and watched movies. Good times.

...and I just realized I'm on your blogroll, right next to Geoffrey Chaucer! Seriously humbling. :)

I got an "A" in Crazy Beeyotch said...

Dude, I've waged war on the medical office worker world. One more cranky "Fran" and I'm going to blow up! So yeah, when they're barking orders at me, I'm going to make sure they spell odrers correctly. There's a young lady in my office who consistently spells "lumber" instead of "lumbar." Considering we deal 98% with back pain, this is unsettling. Ack.

Wisdom teeth? I'm not too terribly nervous. I got my lowers out last year. They just better not try to assuage me with Tylenol 3.