6 Annoying Things Doctors Do (and Why We Do Them)

Me ( White Coat Me That Is)I think I annoyed a patient today doing one of the 6 things I am about to list. I am not secure enough to tell you which one (yet.) But it got me thinking. We doctors are guilty of commiserating about annoying patient habits. So, I decided to put together a list of what I think my patients think are the most annoying thing doctors do from the perspective of a doctor who annoys patients that sometimes also annoy her.

Got all that?

Here goes and these are not in any particular order.

1. Ask patients to fill out twenty pages of paper then never even look at them.

This is awkward really. When a new patient comes to my office, they fill out several forms.
I really enjoy chatting while maintaining eye contact with my patient. I like to ask questions and have more of a conversation as opposed to looking down at a pile of papers. Patients sometimes answer a question with a terse “I wrote that on that paper.” Believe me, I will definitely go back and refer to that paper at the end of the day–it really does serve a purpose (even though it may not seem so right then.)

2. Keep patients waiting for 40 minutes then spend ten minutes in the room with them.

Ugh. I could write a thesis on this issue. It really comes down to time management. We doctors get behind for many reasons and I promise you it is NOT because we are scanning Facebook pictures of cats. Once we are behind, it becomes a catch up game. We pray for an “easy patient” to help us recover from the time hemorrhage that just happened. I can diagnose and treat strep throat in five minutes. To me that patient is a God-send. To that patient with a sore throat, I only spent a tiny bit of time relative to how long they waited. For all of you “easy” patients, I am sorry if you feel robbed. All I can say is that one time, you may be the complex patient for whom minutes are borrowed.

3. Tell patients to call anytime–then don’t return their calls.

I despise the phone. I don’t even like talking on the phone with my mother. Besides that now open secret, phone calls are a huge time suck. I would much prefer an email that I can respond to from my laptop at midnight. When I say “give me a call,” what I mean is a text, email or message would be just fine. Of course there are times when there is no substitute for a voice conversation. I usually return those calls at noon or after five. However, there is NO excuse for not getting back to a patient. When that happens it is usually because we did not get the message from our staff. If you prefer to call, make sure to get the name of the person you speak to so we can track back and whoop that employee straight (ok not the last part.)

One note about email. I do love it as a form of communication but trust me, if you want to get a QUICK response from your doctor, keep your email BRIEF. I read emails the way most people read blogs. Bullets or numbered lists are great for me. A single spaced email that looks like pages and pages of words will have to go to lower on the list. I will eventually read it but realize that I read a lot of my email on my iPhone. Have you ever tried to read a 2000 word email on a phone? I need to sit in front of a computer uninterrupted in order read carefully enough to give good advice. My rule is, if an email to your doctor can’t be condensed to about four hundred words, you really should come in for a visit.

4. Leave the room “for a moment while you change” only to return 30 minutes later.

This is a combination of ADD and the catch up that I spoke of earlier. First, if I step out of a patient room, it’s like open season. People come at me from every direction. “What does this mean?” “Do you know about patient so and so?” “The toilet is overflowing.” “Your daughter is on the phone.” Even if I push them all aside, valuable patient minutes are lost. I am also guilty of trying to duck into the next “quick” patient to alleviate that patient’s annoyance at waiting. I have gotten burned trying to take a quick peak at a rash while someone is changing into a gown only to have the “rash” be only a minor reason for the visit. MD122.jpg

5. Not know who you are.

Really, in my mind there is no excuse for this. It is just carelessness. I have definitely been caught with both feet deep in my mouth because I did not take that extra minute to review someone’s chart. Believe me, I wish I knew every single patient and every single medication they are on and every specialist they see. Since that is not possible, the least I can do is browse the chart before coming in. I will try harder at that.

6. Not listen.

th-5I am good at two things. Making rice and listening. I truly think this is one of the most important characteristics of being a good doctor. I am not going to lie. Sometimes, I will walk into a room moments after getting terrible news about another patient. As hard as I try, sometimes my mind won’t leave that next call I must make. There are times when I have been up most of the night. It is not necessarily with noble patient care stuff. It may be cleaning up the chocolate milkshake that seemed like a great idea when my 6 year old first told me her tummy hurt or walking off the cappuccino that NEEDED an extra shot at 7 pm. Whatever the reason, I can be tired. And that can make me seem distracted.

I can honestly say that my intentions as a doctor are to provide the best quality care to my patients while remaining kind, patient and sympathetic. Energetic, focused and on time?

Now that is a tall order.

Please share with me the most annoying thing you have found about your doctor (as long as I am not your doctor.)


  1. Doctors who do hear what you say, but dismiss it flippantly. I guess it’s important for me to feel like what I say has value. A two way conversation, not one way.

  2. Love this! I don’t usually mind waiting if I’m at an appointment for myself (read: without the kids), because it’s a chance to sit and relax. ;)

  3. I think what annoys me the most or makes me say “what the h_ _ _” is when I look to a dr. to help figure out what is happening to me and they say something like “I don’t know what this is” and then does nothing to try to figure it out, or maybe “what do you think is happening?” . Well, I didn’t go to school for years to know what’s happening. A little guidance would be a good thing. : ) I have to honestly say though – my years of being a patient of Dr. Meyer’s since the beginning of her practice has never been like this. I am blest to have her as my doctor. Marlene

  4. All of the above!! I do try to understand getting backed up with patients part but it is really frustrating when patients are held to this standard of “15 minutes early” only to wait that 15 minutes plus up to 1.5 hours sometimes OR you take the first appointment of the day to avoid that and wait 30 minutes past your appointment time because the Dr. isn’t there.

  5. Love this. It all seems like common sense, but I know that we all need reminders… doctors are human too! :-)

  6. My mother is legally blind. Her docs forget that A LOT, which I do understand. It has affected her life so significantly and sometimes it is simply painful to have to remind her physicians repeatedly. Having adequate time to spend with patients and the general overload of health care practitioners is another casualty of our badly damaged health care system. Thank you for caring enough to look at your own practice objectively.

  7. These things don’t annoy – I’ve always understood how backed up doctors can be.

  8. The most annoying thing for me is no matter what type of dr I’m seeing, they don’t record on the chart/computer that I don’t have my family history. I am asked every time what my family history is and/or something along the lines of “does anyone in your family have so or so? “. It’s painfully for me to explain at every dr visit why I don’t have my family history. That should be flagged on the chart the same as an allergy. I shouldn’t have to explain every time I see the doctor why I don’t have family history

  9. When I use the medical term for a body part or condition they then treat me like an “Internet Doctor” when I really am quite intelligent, deal with body parts in my job and have taken A&P ;)

  10. I think that doctors making assumptions about you based on your symptoms always made me the most irate. Luckily CMMD was never like that when I was lucky enough to be her patient before I was even luckier to be her nurse.

    As someone who suffered from panic attacks for years that caused chest pain and severe anxiety it was difficult every time I would see a Dr with a new concerning (to me) symptom and have it written off and ” just anxiety”. As an adopted woman who at that point had no medical history I had to assume the worst about everything. CMMD never made me feel like she was discounting my fear and true terror even though it WAS most likely due to my panic disorder. I can’t say the same for all the doctors who I begged to listen to me and to understand how scared and uncomfortable I was.

  11. I love this. All doctors need to read it! My other experience is when you can tell that they don’t believe you.

  12. Love hearing this from a doctor’s point of view! My biggest pet peeve is when a doctor blows off a complaint or minimizes my worry about it. I’m leaving my current doctor because she does this all the time. She’s not an ER doctor, so I don’t know why I need to be in a critical state for her to take me seriously. Then if I put it off and come in later than I should for something, she’ll ask: why didn’t you see me about this sooner? SERIOUSLY? I know you don’t do these things, so it’s nice to vent about them here. ;-)

  13. John Sutton, MD says:

    Notice how most of the people bitching on here are women. Typical.

    • What a sexist, ignorant and arrogant comment.

      These comments were made because Dr. Meyers asked people for the specific input they gave. They were invited. The lack of men commenting does not prove they have nothing to say any more than it proves any men read the article. Really, how many men do you think read a women’s blog largely about being a wife and mother…besides you?


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