I got a first hand look at this strategy this week.
No. I didn’t try a new pizza place or spa. I didn’t buy a new laundry detergent or test drive a different car.
This week, I took my Mom to a doctor’s appointment.
Suffice it to say that my mother has had her share of doctor’s visits and despite some pretty complicated issues, she is, thankfully, doing fine. Her most troubling issue of late has been pain in her thumbs. Not just “pain.” Pain that is debilitating, waking her from sleep, agonizing. This for a woman that complains next to never (she walked around with a perforated colon for a week..it was only when she told me she was too tired to empty my dishwasher that it occurred to me that she might be sick.)
Anyway, so the worst pain you can imagine. It turns out she has severe degenerative arthritis of both thumbs. Since this is a hand problem and since she is my mother, I referred her to the “best” hand place around.
This practice has garnered award after award. “Top,” “Best,” “Number 1,” You fill in the blanks. I felt smug that I, her daughter, was able to secure my Mom, a visit with the best of the best.
She went alone for the consultation. She didn’t elaborate but seemed underwhelmed. She explained that Dr. Hand (name altered–duh) had offered her three options: 1. Do Nothing. 2. Get Major Joint Reconstruction Surgery. 3. Get injections to restore cushioning. He refused to offer her his opinion (wouldn’t you expect that from a “Top” anything??) Instead, he said he could do any of the three and she should decide on her own and get back to him. At this point we all should have been concerned. But she was desperate for relief so after chatting with my sister and I, Mom opted for injections and called for an appointment. I knew I was going to be there for that one.
Now the breakdown.
Her appointment was at 2pm. She was asked to arrive at 145 pm for “paper work.” We arrived at the old grand Philadelphia building a few minutes early. As we walked through the marble foyer and stared up at the original plaster ceiling we were in a word: impressed.
An impression that came to a screeching halt seconds after opening the gigantic solid wood double doors to Dr. Hand’s waiting room.
The gum the receptionist was chewing was only marginally less trashy than the barely hidden scent of smoke about her.
Without looking up, she pointed us to the gigantic and impersonal waiting area. I was reminded of a cattle corral.
At 2:15, we were called to the examining room by a young nurse. She was pleasant. She had no idea who my mother was or why she was there. No problem. We explained that this was her second visit and that Dr. H was to give her two injections.
The lovely young lady scampered away leaving us in the room.
Now, I know that doctors have more important things on their mind than aesthetics but how about cleanliness?
The 9 by 9 room was stark, murky and uncomfortable. There was a “manicure” table in the middle. My mom sat down in one chair and my sister and I fidgeted around uncomfortably. There was no place to put our purses or hang a coat, much less sit.
Within a minute, The door opened and Dr. H. entered.
My gut is an amazing thing. The minute he entered, I bristled. Well, maybe it was actually after he spoke these words to my mom: “ So, (did not use her name) whattya got–sore wrist, hand , thumb?? Which is it??”
I couldn’t help myself. “Dr. H, you met my Mom two weeks ago. You are going to be giving her an injection in each hand today.”
“Right. Right.” He mumbled as he looked down and noticed for the first time the two syringes filled with “stuff.”
Without saying a word, washing his hands or donning a pair of procedure gloves, he pulled my mother’s hand across the table and sprayed numbing spray. Before the spray was even dry, he began stabbing a 2 inch needle into her thumb. When the needle did not enter the joint space he began cranking her thumb up and down like a lever arm while forcing the needle deeper and deeper.
My mother was weeping. And my sister and I were ready to punch him in the face.
Finally it was done. He withdrew the needle, looked at my mom and said “Wow, bent the needle on that one!!”
The second injection went worse. My mom’s face was green. When he was finished, he stood up and said “Good as new.”
No apology. No empathy. No instructions. No discussion of what to expect.
That night mom had severe pain in her left hand. Since she was not given any post procedure instructions, she did not know if this was to be expected. She called.
Because Dr. H was unavailable, she was called back by another doctor —a female–who was as kind and empathetic as he was an ass. She explained that the intense pain was to be expected and that in 24 hours she would feel much better.
Today, several things are true. My mom’s hands do feel better. She is glad she chose the injections. However, she will not return to Dr. H–no matter what. And, little does he know that I will never refer him another patient.
Because, Dr. H, I don’t really care how many plaques are on your wall. What I care about is that you are NOT respectful, gentle, or empathetic. Three qualities not optional when it comes to my mother or my patients.
Oh and one more thing. It would also help if you washed your hands AND wore gloves before doing a procedure.
Grand buildings and on time appointments are lovely but I would trade both for a bottle of Purell and a kind touch.
And, I don’t know too many patients that would disagree with me.