Sunday, March 22, 2009

why the doctor's office doesn't look so good any more

The kids have noticed recently that it is unpleasant to go to the doctor's office. I have been wondering about why this is. There is no complaint when we go to the dentist or orthodontist. The experience should be similar, but it is not. In fact, over the years, the dentist experience has become more and more desirable, and the doctor less and less so. After some amount of pondering (while waiting for 97 minutes at the doctor's office one day) I think I have it narrowed down.

At the dentist's office, they have all of the latest magazines to read while you wait - Time, Newsweek, People, Sports Illustrated, McLean's, and today's newspaper. At the doctor's office there is a bulletin about chicken pox vaccination on the wall, beside a list of the symptoms of diabetes.

At the dentist's office, you check yourself in on a computer screen, then sit in a comfortable chair for a maximum of 10 minutes before being greeted in the waiting area by a hygienist, who escorts you to your chair and immediately commences your treatment. At the doctor's office, you line up for your turn to check in with a distracted receptionist, perch on a Naugahyde stacking chair from the 1970s, squeezed in next to someone who is coughing continuously. You wait for 30-97 minutes, depending on how busy it is (despite showing up 1 minute before your appointment time) then a nurse calls your name loudly from the hallway, along with the names of 3 other patients, and you are all led down the hallway and dealt into examination rooms (to wait alone for some further, unspecified amount of time).

At the dentist's office, they have Gameboys for the kids to play with while they wait. At the orthodontist's, they have X-Box. At the doctor's office, they have one of those exciting "big wood beads on a wire maze stuck to a table" to be shared by 6 waiting kids, all waiting for 60-97 minutes. This toy takes a maximum of 97 seconds for a two year old to figure out and get bored with.

At the dentist's office, once you get to the chair, they have TVs in the ceiling. You can wear headphones, or switch to close-captioned and laugh at the inaccurate captioning while the hygienist cleans your teeth and puts on the fluoride. At the doctor's office, they have a full-size chart of the large colon on the wall, for you to memorize while you wait for 10-23 more minutes in the examination room for it to finally be your turn.

At the dentist's and orthodontist's office, there is an interesting view out of large, bright windows while you sit in the chair. At the doctor's office there are no windows, and the room is 1/5 the size of the rooms at the dentist and orthodontist.

At the dentist, the orthodontist and the doctor, the care is top-notch. In all cases the assistants, hygienists, nurses, dentist, orthodontist and doctor are jewels. It's just you get to see some of them a lot more quickly and easily than you get to see others. If you phone them, they all phone you back the same day. They are all skilled and dedicated and care for us compassionately as their patients and as individuals.

I think the difference is that we need the doctor, and have little choice about who to go to and whether we go. When you are sick, you have to go to the doctor, whereas you can postpone the dentist or orthodontist, or choose a new one if you are less than satisfied with any aspect of the experience. If you are lucky (like us) to have a family doctor, you had better hang in and hang on because there are no other family doctors out there accepting patients. The dentist and the orthodontist have to compete to keep you. The doctor is overloaded with demands and can only do the best he or she can to take care of all of those patients.

This makes it hard to get family members to tough out the crappy conditions and survive the wait and discomfort associated with going to the doctor, especially when they have the experience of the dentist and orthodontist for comparison.

I wish it was different, and I certainly don't advocate that doctors operate privately the way that dentists and orthodontists do. Still, when someone is sick, it sucks. I wish the dentist could take care of strep throat or the orthodontist could deal with a plantar wart. I'd definitely go there.

question: how is it at your doctor's?

mompoet - don't get me started about the veterinarian - they even have treats for the patients there, but the downside is that they weigh everyone in the lobby


Lynn Valley Girl said...

Oh so true and comical! A great laugh at the end of a long Monday, MP. Good ending about the Vet's office. I've never really thought about the differences of dentist vs. doctor visits.

Pearl said...

think you nailed it!