Why your doctor runs late and why you should wait

Having to wait for a doctor can be frustrating, I know from being a patient but I also know from being a doctor why I am waiting and the many permutations of issues that likely happened before my appointment to cause the doctor to run late. It would never occur to me to be snarky or hostile to the very people who are trying to help me.

While doctors do make every effort to be on time, we,quite frankly have no control over what concerns each patient brings to the appointment. While the "reason for the visit" on the schedule may say one thing, once we enter the room the story often changes, expands to multiple issues and Pandora's box bursts open.

On any given day I have certainly sat with a scared patient whom I have diagnosed with skin cancer to discuss options (can never predict how a patient will receive and process this information) and make sure all questions are answered , I have listened to another patient who has shared non derm related information about her life and overall health because she felt safe and comfortable sharing it with me, I have purposefully spent additional time with a newly widowed patient whose spouse was also a patient, I have tendered appropriate care to a patient who unexpectedly passes out after a scheduled procedure, I have biopsied a suspicious lesion that looks like a melanoma when a patient says, after wrapping up our visit "by the way, can you look at this" and I have arranged for transport to the emergency room for a patient who shared during her routine 15 minute acne follow up visit that she was suicidal so, yes we do run late.

Next time you are waiting in an exam room for your doctor why don't you thank your doctor for his/her dedication to his/her patients when she/he arrives because it is highly likely that one day YOU will be that patient who needs that unanticipated and unscheduled additional time that causes the schedule to go awry and your doctor will care enough about you to attend to your needs while all the other patients wait!

Brooke Jackson, MD