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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Waiting Too Long?

A common complaint heard in veterinary offices is the clients being bothered by how long they have to wait.  Being in a room for 30 minutes is too long.  Having to wait several hours to pick up their pet is too long.  Waiting 15 minute for the fecal exam to be read is too long.  Yet those same people are more accepting of waits for their own doctor.

All of that went through my mind as I was doing my own waiting today.  My son was running a fever yesterday and complaining of a painful neck.  This morning my wife took him to an urgent care center to be examined (it's Sunday, so no doctors' offices are open, and we wanted to avoid the Emergency Department at the hospital).  The doctor easily determined that he has strep throat, but was concerned about the fact that his neck hurt so much.  Though he didn't think it likely, the doctor thought there was a small possibility of meningitis, and wanted my son evaluated for a spinal tap.  So we ended up at the hospital anyway.

It took over an hour and a half of waiting after we checked in before anyone took him back to an exam room.  Then it was probably close to another hour before the doctor came in to look at him.  She spent about 5-10 minutes examining him, determined that he didn't have the signs of meningitis, and just had a very bad case of strep.  It was probably about another 30 minutes before the nurse finally got our discharge paperwork and we left.  The day started at 11:00 with the visit to the urgent care.  By around 3:45 we were leaving the hospital with merely a case of bad strep throat.  Almost five hours involved.  Thankfully, it wasn't serious and he's perking up and doing well now.  By tomorrow he should be pretty much back to normal.

Even with all of that waiting, I'm not upset.  I feel that we were treated politely and respectfully.  Both doctors were very nice, and I can completely understand slight differences in diagnoses between doctors.  So even though I hated having to wait, it was important for me to make sure that my son was going to be okay.  I also think that most people would understand that kind of a wait on a Sunday afternoon when everything else was closed.

But what would happen if that same situation was in my own office?  What if a client waited a couple of hours after checking in before I walked in the room?  What if their total day was five hours of waiting and it turned out to be something simple?  Yes, many clients would understand, but I would argue that more would be upset and would feel inconvenienced (just remember the story earlier this month).  For some reason, it seems that people expect quicker service from their vets than they do their physicians.  Yet we vets have many of the same situations with different types of cases and having to triage to put the more serious ones first.  Waits can happen, and are unavoidable in many circumstances.

But I can't be too upset today, because my little guy is feeling better.  By tomorrow, I'll be wishing he was back in school!