I got to the office five minutes before my appointment time. Then came a long 30 minutes in the waiting room. Finally, a nurse led me back to an examining room, checked my blood pressure and turned to go.
"He'll be right in," she said as she closed the door behind her.
The specialist I was to see had recently moved into these new offices and the room was still barren.
Walls were devoid of pictures. No magazines graced the counters.
My only distractions were a box of Kleenex, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a jar of tongue depressors.
And I had left my current novel at home.
The minutes dragged by.
"Right in" passed the ten minute mark. Then the twenty. Then thirty.
Finally, Doctor M. bustled in, shook my hand and settled at the desk. We went over my list of questions and reviewed my latest tests. Then he shook my hand again and left the room.
It was the latest in my current string of annual check-ups. Given the demands on the time of area doctor's, this experience may be repeated on the visits with the other physicians I'll be seeing in the next few weeks.
According to a national survey, the average wait time in a doctor's office is 24 minutes. And, for a specialist, the time can be far longer.
At my stage in life, I have a long history of doctor visits. And I've learned my best approach is to go prepared. When my time with the doctor finally comes, I make the most of every minute.
I always take along two printed lists of my current medications, one that the staff can keep and one that I have in hand as I speak with the doctor. That way, I can ask about any specific medication concerns.
But for me, the most important part of any doctor visit is my list of questions. I develop these over the weeks before an appointment. Any time a concern about my treatment comes up, I add it to the list. When I finally see the doctor, I don't leave any concerns unanswered.
Still, no matter how well any of us are prepared for such visits, there is still the frustration of the inevitable waiting game.
Though some of these long waits may be due to the physicians or their staffs, they are not responsible for all such delays. Often, it's the patients themselves who throw a carefully-made schedule into turmoil.
First, of course, is the unexpected emergency where a patient has to be seen immediately because of the severity of his or her problem. These, we can all accept, since it might someday be us in need of priority care.
But the one scheduling difficulty that should never occur in a busy doctor's office is the result of an inconsiderate patient arriving 10, 20, even 30 minutes late. That kind of tardiness impacts on everyone's piece of the doctor's time.
So from long experience, I offer my best advice for surviving the waiting game.
First, arrive on time.
Second, come prepared with a book or something to entertain or distract you.
Third, bring everything you'll need to insure a productive conversation with your doctor when your time arrives.
And always remember, the most important asset any patient can have is patience itself.