Miss Manners: Doctor’s delays compounded by assistant’s rudeness
By Judith Martin, Nicholas Martin and Jacobina Martin,
Dear Miss Manners: I arrived a few minutes early for an 11:15 a.m. appointment with my podiatrist. The assistant took me to the exam room on time, asked the pre-exam questions and departed, saying, “The doctor will be in soon.” Again and again, I was told that it would be “soon.”
At 11:45, I put my footgear back on and asked if I would be out by noon. Knowing, from years of previous visits, that my routine procedure takes about 10 minutes, I had accepted another appointment in the same building for 12:15.
The answer was no, due to some unexpected delay.
I apologized and rescheduled. On the day of my rescheduled appointment, the assistant pointedly asked if I had another appointment that day. I said no. Once again, I was kept waiting 30 minutes after my appointment time. I did not complain, but there was not a word of apology from the podiatrist for that day, or the previous one.
I wrote a letter explaining why I’m a bit sensitive about waiting: After the birth of a child, I had been left in the hospital shower with promises of fresh gowns and towels, only to discover the nurse had forgotten about me. After lengthy pounding on the door, naked and shivering, I finally stuck my head out and eventually managed to snag another nurse. Another time, when a doctor’s office was locked up for lunch, I had been forgotten — wearing an exam gown and waiting.
I gave this letter to the podiatrist at the end of my visit. She did not read it on the spot, and I never heard from her.
All my doctors are in the same complex, a short drive from my home, and I’m not eager to find someone else. The podiatrist is new, as my previous one no longer takes my insurance. I like her well enough, but this incident bothers me.
I’ll definitely take my knitting to the next appointment. What is a reasonable time to be left in a doctor’s office after the nurse takes your vitals and info?
Doctors have greater medical knowledge than their patients, and the benefit they bestow is remarkable and deserving of gratitude. But that does not justify rude behavior.
And etiquette is not a race in which the first to show offense — Miss Manners is thinking of the assistant and her pointed question — claims the moral high ground. Scheduling the rest of your day in the expectation that the doctor would not keep you waiting may have been naive, but it was not impolite. Patients should expect that normal doctor appointments have a reasonable start and end time.
This is not to say there will not be exceptions and emergencies, but those should be uncommon and accompanied with an apology — even if the doctor spent the intervening time saving another patient’s life.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
2021, by Judith Martin