Patient/Doctor Etiquette

Yesterday, I waited forty minutes to see a specialist. I didn’t particularly mind. I was ten minutes late, to start with. I had my Kindle with me. I was fine.

Finally, the specialist breezes in and asks, “How are you feeling?”

He sit down across from me, eye level.

As I open my mouth to answer him, the specialist breaks eye contact. He swivels his chair to face his computer, and begins to read my medical record. I continue speaking, but now to one side of his head.

How am I feeling?

I am feeling like I no longer have the specialist’s full attention.

When my kid pulls a stunt like that, I scold him. “Look at me while I’m talking to you.”

But I’m not the mother, here. I’m the patient. I follow the requisite etiquette.

I rattle off my current symptoms as the specialist reads up on my past symptoms. As I’m talking, I feel like I’m competing with my own history. I am no longer giving the specialist my full attention. Half of me is already planning to find a better doctor, a doctor who listens.

It only occurs to me later that I could have been a better patient, a patient who waits as the doctor is reading, instead of a patient who mindlessly speaks on cue.

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