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How To Deal With Bumps In The Doctor/Patient Relationship

If You Are Kept Waiting

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For tips about what to do while waiting, see the Survivorship A to Z document: If Your Doctor Usually Keeps You Waiting.

If a long wait is the norm for seeing a particular doctor, consider changing doctors. We do not recommend this lightly, but time is precious. It is something we can't get back once it is gone. As they say, "life is not a rehearsal." For information about how to change doctors, see: How To Switch Doctors

If the doctor does not acknowledge that he or she has kept you waiting for a long period of time such as saying: "I apologize for the long wait. We're very busy today.":

  • Consider mentioning it when you are with the doctor. 
    • Be polite. Let him or her know you understand that a doctor's office can get uncontrollably busy. (There are emergencies and some patients need more time than allotted).
    • Suggest that you are okay with this happening when it has to, but that you would also like your time to be considered and need the doctor to recognize that your time is also important.
    • Consider asking for an apology.
    • Experience indicates that it is best to wait until the end of your session with the doctor instead of bringing it up at the beginning of the meeting. 
  • Alternatively, consider writing an e mail or a letter.
    • When David S. brought up the problem at the beginning of a meeting, his doctor responded by saying "You're being negative. Is that what you're here for." (Actually, it happened twice in 2 years). He wrote the following letter:


It was almost two weeks ago that we last saw each other, but the meeting continues to stay with me.From my perspective, we have a partnership to promote wellness and take care of health problems as they arise. The key word in that sentence is “partnership.”

During our time together, there have been two times when you’ve kept me waiting for over an hour. Each time, when I brought up the subject, your response was to tell me that my reaction was “hostile” – and changed the subject to the matter at hand.It’s left me feeling like I’m in an abusive relationship- the kind of relationship I do my best to avoid.

The fact that a doctor with a busy practice like yours runs late occasionally is to be expected. All that I personally need is a simple: “I apologize for keeping you waiting” or some such recognition of the value of my time as well as the necessities of your practice.

I would still appreciate that apology, and hope that if time does get away again, that it will be acknowledged.

All best,David 

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