A little public service announcement

Jan 6, 2015

Each year around November and December things get absolutely bonkers in the surgery world.
Because many people have met their insurance deductible towards the end of the year, they want to take advantage of their insurance "benefits" and have surgery.
Lots of surgery.
This means no lunch breaks and 12+ hour work days for Josh and me.
(Which is my only explanation for me shoving this blog into a dumpster over the last two months.)
Now, having our butts kicked for a few months is all fine and dandy when you are dealing with nice people who appreciate your efforts to help them get better.
It's the others who make it tough.
The demanding, forceful, and just plain mean folks.
It's those peeps who make me come home and divulge in a cocktail or five.
Now that dreadful December has come and gone, I have collected a few thoughts that I wanted to share with the general public regarding "how to be a good patient".
I apologize in advance if I come across as gruff or harsh.
I won't be sad, angry or offended if you feel the need to reply with any pointers regarding "how to be a good medical provider"
1) Surviving (and understanding) long wait times.
Do you get all hot and bothered when your doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner is running behind?
Me too.
It's the worst.
Don't yell.
Don't make snarky comments when a nice young lady such as myself apologizes for the delay.
There are two major reasons why this may have happened.
Primarily, the odds are good that your provider is taking care of someone who may have needed care a bit more urgently than you. If we are ever running behind in clinic it is typically due to us having to work a patient into the schedule who needs to be seen ASAP, like a patient with an acute fracture. Sometimes your physician may be on call, which makes it way more likely that people are having to be worked in the schedule, largely due to referrals from outside physicians (who you truly can't turn away).
On the flip side of that, don't automatically show up late assuming that your provider will be late seeing you. No-shows and late arrivals can drastically affect the flow of the day. If you have a longer than normal wait time, consider the fact that the patient scheduled before you may have shown up late, or not arrived early enough to finish their new patient paperwork, therefore causing their allotted time to overflow into your allotted time.
Nothing upsets me more, to be honest.
If you know you won't make it in time for your appointment it is best to at least call the office in advance to inform them and to see if there is anything that can be done.
Also, if you don't plan on attending your scheduled appointment, please do everyone a favor and cancel your appointment. You are potentially wasting a spot that someone in pain may have been denied.
In our office it is quite common for people to show up late and beg to be seen; although we have a strict "cancel after you are 15 minutes late policy". More often than not we agree to work them into the schedule out of the niceness of our super stressed, cold-hearted hearts.
The small bit of kindness may help that one person, but it ultimately affects every other patient for the rest of the day.
Because of the whole "being on call and working with fractures and patients who urgently need surgery" thing I was actually running one hour late in clinic last week due to a lunchtime surgery.
You know what happens to girls when they don't get fed, right?
Anyway, I was terrified to bring my regularly scheduled patient back, in fear that she would be so angry and upset that I was so late. I apologized repetitively, and she immediately smiled and said "Don't apologize, I know y'all are so busy and you probably had someone who needed your help more than I did at this time."
She wins.
Be her.
2) Bring all necessary documents.
 X-rays, MRIs, lab work, previous medical records, your firstborn child.
Don't assume your doctor automatically knows and believes that the last doctor who treated you saw a fracture on the x-ray or that your blood sugars were under control.
Bring proof.
A prepared patient is the best patient.

3) Let your provider do their job and don't attempt to provide care to yourself (by removing sutures or casts on your own)
I've seen it more than I would like to admit, particularly in grown, hard-headed men.
Silly men.
Patients who I know I've put in a cast will come back in clinic without the previously mentioned cast and upon questioning they admit that they "just sawed it off themselves"
Orthopedic offices have special cast saws that vibrate back and forth (rather than in a circular motion) so unless you own a cast saw of your own please, please, please let you doctor/PA/NP/MA remove it for you.
Also, regarding sutures, it's always in your best interest to let the person who placed your sutures be the one who removes your sutures.
Sometimes, a "fancy" suture pattern is required, depending on the incision, and there are certain ways they need to be removed. If it is done incorrectly, then non-absorbable suture can remain under your skin causing a potential infection.
Other times, sutures need to stay in for a certain length of time depending on the type of skin you are re-approximating.
I've had plenty of patients come back for their first post-op visit to proudly show me that their brilliant self or their roommate/dog/physical therapist already removed their sutures.
A week early.
And they are wondering why they are bleeding.
Just let me do it.
I like stitchin' and like un-stitchin'
4) Don't rely on google.
I'm guilty of it too.
Orthopedic surgery is quite a narrow field of medicine, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've forgotten 99% of what I learned in PA school regarding primary care.
I love bones and I know a lot about them.
When it comes to medical things I may not know (particularly involving our dogs) I'm just like you.
I google, then read the worst things in the world, and immediately assume Charlie or Molly has cancer and is seconds away from death.
I had a patient recently ask me why I prescribed him a narcotic medication (which is non-narcotic) because google told him it was a narcotic and it will be habit forming and kill him.
Message boards and Yahoo Answers tend to only provide negative feedback from uninformed or uneducated people so please don't go googlin', ok?
Think about it, how often do you see positive, helpful things on online message boards from strangers?
I highly doubt may doctors or NPs or PAs have much time to spend online trolling for random questions they can answer for strangers, for free.
5) Be proactive and responsible regarding your medicine refills.
Don't call last minute (late on a Friday afternoon or the day before a holiday) expecting to be able to get a prescription refill immediately.
It doesn't work that way.
Although, until recently, Josh thought it did.
He once had his sweetheart of an endocrinologist call an insulin refill in for him on a Saturday afternoon.
I gave him a verbal spanking when I found this out.
Be a responsible, prepared patient.
If you may be running out of medication in a few days and know you need more, then please give your practitioner ample time to help you out.
Men, I'm talking to you.

6) Be kind.
Honey attracts more than vinegar.
Always be kind to your provider, no matter how frustrated you may be.
Keep in mind that their sole purpose is to help you.
You never know when they could pull some strings for you or truly help you out in a time of need.
I'm terrible with names, but for some strange reason I always tend to remember the names of the extremely nice patients and also the extremely rude patients.
If you are extra sweet or sad or scared or under the age of 13 I will most likely give your stuffed animal a cast to match your cast.

1 comment:

Leah said...

Awesome tips!! 😊

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