Bad Bedside Manner: Why Background Checks Are Important
7 mins read

Bad Bedside Manner: Why Background Checks Are Important

I had to have dermatological surgery last week.  I’m okay; it’s just another mole gone rogue. When my (new) dermatologist referred me to a particular surgeon, I didn’t question the recommendation. Come to think of it, I didn’t do much of a background check on my new dermatologist either, because she was in my insurance network.  I drove to the hospital 30 minutes away.

SIDE NOTE: I looked her up after the fact, and she’d only been practicing for five years. To me, that’s a newbie doctor, who probably doesn’t even own a white lab coat, or a stethoscope. Had I known, I never would’ve gone to her. I prefer my doctors to be middle age, and Jewish, with degrees from Ivy League medical schools, and residencies at prestigious hospitals with names that I can actually pronounce.

I arrived at the hospital early and pulled into the parking lot. I couldn’t remember what building my surgery was in, so I called the office. I got a recorded message, assuring me that someone would be on the line soon, and I believed the voice on the other end. I’m trusting that way.

After five minutes of advertisements for laser hair removal and Rosacea treatments, I heard, “We’re sorry that we were unable to answer your call, please leave your name and number…” Blah, blah, blah. I hung up and called back. I thought they were probably having a brief phone jam. I got the answering machine again.

I decided to call their other office, and the same thing happened. On my third try, I left a message because I was starting to crawl out of my freckled skin. It had been twenty minutes of listening to warnings about acne, warts and psoriasis. I was supposed to be in surgery in 15 minutes. My message wasn’t pretty. In fact it was curt, and definitely had the tone of a person who was pissed off. I felt abandoned, uncared for, as if the world was plotting against me. Or at least everyone in the Family Dermatology offices! Why, oh why, wasn’t anyone answering the phone?!

I parked the car and walked into the first building that I saw. I found an information desk, and a real person. She pointed me in the right direction, and I wanted to give her a hug.  I took an elevator to the second floor where I found the surgeon’s office. That’s when “pissed off” took on a whole new meaning.

I walked in. It wasn’t just an empty waiting room, devoid of patients. There wasn’t anyone behind the reception desk either. It felt eerily quiet and sterile. Isn’t this how most slasher films begin?

I yelled out, “Hello? Hello?” Cue uncomfortable silence. I saw a hallway leading to the back of the office, so I started walking. My nerves were desperately close to short circuiting. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about getting cut open in the first place, and Doctor Ghost Town was only making it worse.

“HELLO? I’m here to get some cells removed!”

When I reached the back of the office, there was another deserted reception desk, and several empty exam rooms. I was going to friggin’ scream or throw something at someone’s head. Now if I could only find a head.

And then, almost like a battle cry, U2’s, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” started playing from behind the only closed door in the whole deserted joint.

In a matter of seconds, a smattering of scenarios raced through my mind. Firstly, great song! I saw U2 play it live in 1987, on their Joshua Tree tour at Madison Square Garden, with my then boyfriend. And then, what the heck is going on? Is somebody having surgery in there, and the doctor has a twisted sense of humor? I convinced myself that there were probably some inappropriate shenanigans going on, and I was about to interrupt even though I really didn’t want to see what was behind door number one, if something icky was going down.

I knocked. A terse and bothered, “What?” came back at me. I didn’t respond (I was afraid) so instead, I froze until the door slowly opened a crack and a woman’s head peered out. Here’s the head I could throw a stapler at. I couldn’t see inside the room nor could I see if anyone else was in the room, but I had visions of something crazy going on in that room.

I snapped out of my fantasy long enough to answer, “I’m a patient.” I thought that this would snap her out of whatever the heck she was doing and, oh, I don’t know, act like she cared that there was a patient in the office who might need some help.

Nope, instead, she said, “Oh, the nurse will be up front in a few.” And with that she closed the door. If the nurse is coming back, then who the heck was she? The doctor?!  I calmly walked back down the hallway, out of the office, into the elevator, into the parking lot, into my car, and drove to safety.

Was this a commentary on our healthcare system? Bad manners? My failure to do appropriate research? A little while later, I received a call from the surgeon’s main office, not the office I was just at. I told the receptionist the whole story, and she could not have cared less. All she could offer was, “Do you want to go back now?”

Was she high?! No, I didn’t want to go back now or ever!

I asked her why no one picked up the phone in either office. She told me that they don’t answer the phones when they’re at lunch. I was seething at her stupidity, the office’s stupid policy, and stupidity in general. “So, you don’t have an answering service with live people answering calls from patients?” “No.” I couldn’t help myself. “Wow, it’s a good thing that you never get any emergencies, otherwise someone could drop dead because you’re having a sandwich.”

When the actual surgical office called me, I was already home, and suited up for a much needed work out. There weren’t any apologies, only two questions. “Do you want to reschedule your incision?” “NO.” And, “So you’ll go somewhere else?” I was practically laughing at this point. “Yeah, I think so.” She said okay and hung up.

While writing this over the weekend, I called the office to get the recorded message down verbatim. A live person, from an answering service, picked up. Sure, because Saturday afternoon is when dermatological offices are bombarded with skin emergencies.

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