Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dear No Longer Our Doctor

So, we went back to the doctor.  Remember the one where we had the horrible experience the first time?  We decided to give them a second chance, mostly because we had already scheduled a follow-up for the girls' Flu vaccine boosters.  What follows, is the letter I wrote to said doctor after the second enraging visit to their office.  The names have been removed so I can't be sued for defamation or anything like that.

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Dear Dr. ________,

I am writing this letter as a professional courtesy to let you know exactly why I will not be bringing my children back to your office ever again.  The first time I was in your office with my two daughters, we had a really bad experience.  My very first impression came at the check-in desk.  When I explained that I had not brought my children’s shot records with me, but could get most of the records faxed from their previous pediatrician here in the United States, the reply I received was both insulting and rude.  I paraphrase here, “Ma’am, I told your husband that the doctor cannot see your children without a complete shot record.  You have 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment.  If you can get the records here in that time, then you can see the doctor.  Otherwise, we can reschedule for after we get the full records.”  This was actually delivered soaked in condescension, with an eye roll, a glance at a watch, and then a prompt closing of the glass divider.  I was astounded, and almost walked out right then.  Instead, I called our pediatrician in Cleveland, where we haven’t lived in over a year, and the receptionist there was not only extremely glad to hear my voice and sad to hear that we weren’t coming back, but also remembered details about our lives including the names of my children.  She faxed the records from Cleveland to your office before I even hung up the phone, and so we were then allowed inside to see you for the first time. 

My first impression of the office, beyond the rude check-in woman, was that it does not look like a place that kids come.  This was then further reinforced by the complete lack of any color in the office, lack of adequate changing tables and necessities for kids in diapers or potty training, and complete lack of kid proofing.  In the time I spent with the nurse from the waiting room to the exam room and then inside, she (the nurse) and I spent at least half of it wrangling my kids to not touch or climb on things that were quite obviously not designed with them in mind at all.  When the nurse left the room, I then wrangled my kids out of their clothing and into the required gowns, dreading all the while the 20 minutes it was going to take me to get them back in their own clothing.  I have not had to undress my children for a doctor since they were infants, and while I understand the thought behind wanting to examine them “completely,” I think you really should weigh the costs and benefits of this policy.  This is NOT standard policy by any of the pediatricians I am familiar with (both personally and professionally), and it is hugely time consuming and quite frankly unnecessarily exhausting as a parent to have to get my 2 year old and 4 year old dressed again afterward. 

My first interaction with you was completely tainted by everything that had come before it.  I am sure you are a great and very knowledgeable doctor.  I do not question your medical expertise at all.  I do however question your tact.  For example: my older daughter has a hemangioma.  She is 4 1/2 years old.  You could at least give me the courtesy of trying to feel out what we have done so far and what we know about it before offering to send her for a specialist consultation.  You do not know me, yet you assume that I know nothing about a condition that my daughter has had since the day she was born.  That was discourteous and laughable in my opinion.  You also expressed concern for my younger daughter’s runny nose.  Her snot was completely clear and we had just traveled from Europe, therefore I was not at all concerned and I found your over-concern disconcertingly disingenuous.  You also never spoke directly to either of my children, both of whom are perfectly capable of speaking in complete sentences and answering for and about themselves. 

When we left your office that day, I was infuriated.  I have never had such a bad interaction with a doctor’s office in my life.  Perhaps you should know that my mother worked as an office manager for doctor and dentist offices for most of my life.  Perhaps you should know that I hold a Masters and am a PhD Candidate in Medical Anthropology, a field that studies the effects of culture on health and illness.  Perhaps you should know that I have my Masters in Public Health.  Perhaps you should know that I waited tables for 10 years and am somewhat of an expert on customer service because of this experience.  Perhaps you should know that even though we are new in town, my husband’s entire family is from here and have all heard this story at least once.  Did you know that every person who has a bad experience typically tells that story to at least 5 other people?    

Despite our first experience, I chose to give you and your office the benefit of the doubt and to come back for my girls’ flu vaccine boosters as we had scheduled 4 weeks after the first appointment.  After all, I was a little jet-lagged and in the middle of a stressful international move the first time we met.  We arrived at the appointment early, a feat that you may not be able to appreciate as a mother of one baby, but trust me this is impressive and not easy.  We checked in and waited for about 5 minutes.  The very nice nurse then called me up to the front desk to tell me that after you had reviewed my daughters’ shot records, you had decided that they didn’t actually need the booster after all.  She did apologize, and we then hastily left the office.  I took the children to a playground, and called your office.  The lady on the other end of the line, the same rude check-in lady previously discussed, checked our records as I asked her.  She read me the phone number that you had on file, and it was my husband’s current and functioning cell phone number.  She then asked if I wanted to change the number to mine.  I said no.  I told her to go ahead and cancel my youngest daughter’s appointment that I had previously made for January 14th because we would not be coming back.  She then said, “Ok, I’ve taken her off the schedule,” and that was that. 

I understand that you are a very busy doctor who is pressed for time.  I want you to know that I completely respect your time, which is why I show up for appointments early whenever possible.  There were, however, 4 weeks between the time that we first came and our second appointment.  Even if you had only reviewed my children’s records that morning, you could have at least made sure that we got a phone call to not come in out of respect for our time as well.  Apologies are nice, but doing it right in the first place means that you don’t have to apologize. 

Thankfully, we live in a place where we have a choice in pediatric offices.  I sincerely hope that you use this opportunity to learn and grow in your new practice.  I took the time to write this letter to you because I know I would want to know why someone never came back to see me again.  Our family will no longer require your medical services.  I would highly recommend checking out our former pediatric office in Cleveland, as they are incomparably amazing in so many ways.  Our children actually asked to go play in their office and we NEVER had a single bad interaction with anyone in their entire office.  Additionally, I want to let you know that I am sending a copy of this letter to the _________ Human Resources Department in the hopes that they might be able to help you iron out some of the details of better service.  I know that I have come to expect a very high quality of care and service based on our outstanding experiences with physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other health professionals in the Cleveland area, but I see no reason why moving should force us to lower our expectations.  Perhaps your office should raise theirs. 

Sincerely,
Mama Melch

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Monday, while cooking dinner, I got a phone call from the manager of Dr. ____'s office.  She was very apologetic and a little perplexed as to why she had received a copy of the letter from the HR department that day and NOT from the doctor to whom it was addressed and who had received it at least a week ago.  I thanked her for taking the time to call.

Now we're on the hunt for a new pediatrician.

P.S. It is so nice to be back in the USA where I'm allowed to expect service and know how to exact retribution when I feel it necessary.  Those were two things I assuredly missed when we were in Berlin!

2 comments:

  1. You absolutely need to be comfortable with your kids' doctor. You'll be spending a LOT of time there.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly. So far we've found a couple practices that are only accepting the unborn. I find this seriously odd considering the fact that MY 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 year old are going to require MUCH less work. The hunt continues.

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