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Health & Lifestyle Society & Culture

How to Know How Long to Wait in a Doctor’s Exam Room Before Saying Something

Today is the day of your appointment with your primary care physician. You have felt some weird twitching in your eyelid a lot lately, and, as they say, better safe than sorry! “Yeah, it’s weird, like sometimes I feel like it twitches more if I eat grapes,” you explain. “But then it will go away for weeks, and then it just comes back in full force. Yesterday I was just sitting at work and it started flaring up again. I looked it up online and it sounded like maybe just a potassium deficiency, but who knows. I just need to nip this in the bud,” you explain. Nurse Butters finishes filling out information onto her chart, and prepares to leave the room. “Alright, thank you. Dr. Storf should be in shortly!”

So far, so good. You signed in, spent just five minutes reading periodicals, and it took just two minutes for the nurse to complete her duties. Heck, if the doc comes in and puts your fears to rest in the next ten minutes, you’ll still have time to grab some Chik-Fil-A before heading back to work!

You sit on the paper cloth on the bed and pull out your phone, scrolling through Twitter. A few minutes pass. No biggie. You play a round or two of a word game before glancing at the time. Hmm, fifteen minutes since the nurse left. Well, any minute now! You read over a chart on the wall about allergies, then spend some time eying a box of rubber gloves. “Huh, these were made in Sioux City,” you say. Back to your phone. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Weather. Fantasy Sports. Yawwwn. Nothing new. Okay, now 32 minutes have passed. You are officially worried.

“Five more minutes,” you think. Five more minutes and what? You’ll walk out? Yell for help? Write a bad Yelp review? No, there’s little that can be done. And now the ship has sailed for that crispy chicken sandwich. If the doctor walks in now you’ll still be ten minutes late from lunch.

You move into the circular rolling chair and slide around a few feet this way and that. You move the mouse and wake up the sleeping computer, but it’s of course password-protected. You open all the cupboard doors; nothing but wooden sticks and cotton balls. In the trash, you spy a paper cup. 43 minutes have now passed. Redbook, Country Homes & Gardens, and some Spanish parenting magazine are in the magazine rack. You poke through Redbook and momentarily get interested in an article about the resurgence of Judith Light, but just as quickly snap back out of it.

“Dr. Storf forgot about me!” you think. “I’m here for a fricking eyelid twitch for fuck’s sake. I was supposed to back at work 37 minutes ago!” You notice your shirt is rather moist. You wipe sweat off your forehead. You decide to start making some noise. You begin by banging your feet on the metal underbelly of the bed. Nothing. You start coughing really loud. Nothing.

“This is ri-god-damn-diculous!” you yell aloud as you finally decide to crack the door open. You peek out into the hall. Not a soul in sight. You stand in the doorway, hands on hips, and start to whistle. In the distance you think you see some sort of aide pass by. You take a few steps to peer down the corridor, but she’s since disappeared. You race back to your room. Just your luck, that would have been the moment Dr. Storf returned.

An hour. One stinking hour since you last saw the nurse. You suddenly realize how dumb you are. There are actual sick people here. There were kids in the waiting room coughing for real. There was an old woman with a walker with a caretaker. There was a man wearing a mask over his face. There was a woman in a sling. You have a goddamn twitching fucking eyelid, and it has since stopped! You don’t need medical attention, you need to be hauled directly into a psych ward!

An hour and fifteen minutes pass. You text your boss and let him know the situation. There’s nothing imminent that you’re missing, but you still feel guilty. There are thousands of places you’d rather be. You could have pretended to have a doctor’s appointment and gotten loaded at the bar next door instead. You could have just gone home and raked leaves. But no, your precious little eyelid was feeling a little weird for a few minutes the other day.

Ninety minutes have gone by. Your shirt is legitimately soaked. There is a visible sweat ring. Your phone battery has gone from 84% to 23%. You angrily tear a few pages out of Redbook and throw them away. You switch around a few items in the cupboards. You let the water run in the sink. And then you hear something. Some voices. You run to the door and peek out the crack. It’s Dr. Storf! But… he’s going to the door next to you?! Impossible! Was there seriously someone waiting longer than you’d been?! No way. You have literally been forgotten.

98 minutes. Your patience is gone. You have responsibilities. Screw this appointment. You are officially leaving. You stand up from the bed, open the door, and take a step into the hall. Oh no! You see a nurse making a copy at the end of the hall. You would prefer to escape unscathed. You hustle back to the room. If the doctor hasn’t forgotten you and is really just this late, you wonder what kind of awful appointment has delayed him so badly? What could some patient have that totally sidetracked the doctor’s entire day?!

At this point it’s been a clean 100 minutes. One hour, 40 minutes since the nurse last spoke with you. You’re seething with rage. On one hand, you hate to burn another second in this waiting room for a nonsense reason. But on the other hand, you’ve devoted 100 minutes of your day to this. You have got to see this through, right? 15 minutes, maybe even 30 minutes, sure, bailing is reasonable. But this is the point of no return.

What are your options?

  • Continue to wait.
    • Set a time limit and stick to it. Two hours is as long as you can go. If it comes to that, explain to the nurse or someone at the front desk you have to be back at work and you can’t wait any longer.
    • Set no time limit and just continue to wait. In the off-chance you really were forgotten, maybe they’ll be really apologetic and give you a free pen or something. Every second is excruciating, but assuming you weren’t forgotten, there are undoubtedly other people behind you waiting as well.
    • Relax. This might be the most free time you have to yourself for a long time. When you get to work it’s chaos, and when you get home it’s screaming kids and chores. Maybe just chill.
    • Take a nap. Lay down on the bed and go to sleep. Someone will eventually wake you up.
  • Say something.
    • Consider calling the office from your phone and asking about wait times for a walk-in appointment with this doctor. Find out for yourself what’s up!
    • Go find a nurse and ask for an update. Explain you have commitments and can’t wait much longer.
    • Cause a scene. No one likes to wait, and it ends here. That whistling and coughing you were doing earlier? Start screaming.
  • Leave.
    • Yeah, you wasted 100 minutes, but screw this “point of no return” business. It could literally be another 100 minutes. You have to draw the line, and that line is now.
    • As soon as you start leaving, there’s a decent chance that will be the moment the doctor approaches your room. Start leaving for real, then just your luck the doc will appear.
    • Leave angrily, tell the front desk you’re switching doctors, and storm out. Go home and write horrible reviews on all the review sites!
    • Leave peacefully and hope for pity. Maybe you’ll be given a special appointment the next day first thing in the morning.

You decide to keep waiting for just a little longer, and at 3:42, a full two hours, 12 minutes after you were last seen by the nurse, Dr. Storf pops in.

“Ah, sorry about the wait there!” the doc says. “Oh, no, no problem!” you reply. “Got me out of the office for a while, ha ha,” you say, all the while asking yourself “what is WRONG WITH ME!” On one hand you want to wring this guy’s neck, but now he’s yours… all yours! You can be seen!

“So, your eye is giving you problems?” says the doc as he shines a light in your eye. “Yeah, it was twitchy the other day when I was eating a lot of grapes,” you begin. “Okay, yes, I see. Well, I’d say just try some eyedrops. This is pretty common. Probably just a potassium deficiency. But, we’d better get a lab order just to be sure.” DAMN IT! Now you have to go down the hall to the lab and have blood drawn? “Oh, I’m sure I’m fine,” you insist. “I’ll just eat more bananas.” Nope, now you find yourself waiting at the lab for the blood to be drawn.

You never do go back to work that day, and when you get back to your car in the parking lot you release a sigh of joy. Your hands tremble as you clutch the wheel out of sheer happiness. It’s over! That damn appointment is over! You start the car, begin backing out, and… the eyelid twitches. Like, really twitches hard. Oh shit. You need a follow-up appointment. This is definitely bad.


Recreate Your Own Exam Room!


My Hot Take:
I’ve waited over an hour many times, and every time it’s equally horrible. I get very anxious and panicky after 20 minutes every time. But I have yet to ever leave the room, and I have yet to ever have been forgotten. I will walk out one day, though, I’m sure. If it’s hot enough I will get embarrassingly sweaty and leave and never return.

tl;dr
Tired of waiting in the exam room? Debate if it’s worthwhile to stay or leave.

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