It’s My Blog and I’ll Rant About My Visit to the Doctor If I Want To!

Yesterday, a friend and I happened to get on the subject of restaurants, waiting rooms and (yes) elevators that have televisions. We agreed that the relatively recent practice of putting a TV everywhere possible in order to entertain or distract us is annoying. Obviously, some may enjoy watching TV while they’re waiting to see their doctor or eating lunch in a cafe or riding in an elevator. Also obviously, some people don’t. 

So I was psychologically primed when I entered a doctor’s office today and found a TV in the far corner of the empty waiting room. It was tuned to a talk show about cooking. Even worse, the sound was extremely loud. Instead of politely asking the staff if it would be possible to turn off the TV, I did it myself. In retrospect, I should have asked, but since I was the only one in the room, pushing the “off” button seemed like an acceptable thing to do. (Have you ever noticed that they never leave the remote control next to the television, a courtesy we patients might appreciate? Given how loud that TV was today, I think it’s really there for the office staff, who happen to be in a different room.)

After a while, one of the staff noticed that the TV was off and used the remote to turn it back on. I objected, saying that I had turned it off. We went back and forth a bit, and I raised my voice a little (no personal attacks were made). The staff member said the TV was there “for the entertainment of the patients” and having it off was merely my preference. Since another patient had entered the waiting room by then, I gave up. Even when I was alone again, the TV kept going, albeit with reduced volume.

Eventually, I got to see the doctor. He seemed upset about something. He spoke very fast and not very clearly. He was brusque, interrupted me when I asked questions, and kept telling me I didn’t understand his precise reasons for doing an MRI of my hip. Near the end of the examination, I said “Well, it will be good to find out what’s going on in there” (referring to my hip). I thought that was a pretty innocuous thing to say, but he insisted on again repeating why an MRI was a good idea (it was merely to rule out the presence of an anatomical abnormality or a tumor, not “to find out what’s going on in there”).

Having agreed about getting an MRI, I then made the mistake of asking about a different bone-related issue, since this doctor is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knees and shoulders and similar bones. My question was “Is surgery often done for bone spurs in the foot?”. He told me in no uncertain terms that asking a doctor a question like that is the worst thing a patient can do. He gave me a brief lecture, explaining that you should never ask a doctor about anything the doctor isn’t prepared or qualified to talk about. He seemed quite upset and left the room. I called after him “Should I follow you?”, he made a noise and I did.

While waiting for the MRI to be scheduled, I asked him if I could speak to him about something else. He said “No”. I then said I wanted to discuss the TV issue. I said that if a patient wants the TV off, it would be a good thing for the staff to honor that request. In response, he severely criticized my failure to initially ask the staff to turn off the TV, instead of pushing the off button myself. “How would you like it if I came to your house and drove your car? Or came into your house and turned off your television? It’s not your television. It’s ours.” (Gosh, I thought the TV was for the entertainment of the patients.) I admitted I would have asked if there had been anyone else in the room, but still felt what I had done wasn’t so bad.

At this point, I told the doctor that he had the worst bedside manner of any doctor I’ve ever visited (and I’ve visited a lot). Talking fast, interrupting, constantly correcting my choice of words, saying he didn’t “give a sh@t” about something and generally looking and sounding pissed off. He said he was still willing to treat me. I said “I don’t think so” and left. (This area isn’t short of orthopedic surgeons.)

Now, I assume this guy was angry about the TV thing when he entered the examining room. Maybe he heard my exchange with his staff. Maybe one of them mentioned the difficult patient in the waiting room. But if he was already angry with me, it would have been much better (and more “professional”) if he’d said so up front. He might have even declined to treat me. I would have been surprised but would have left quietly. Instead, he behaved like a jerk (another word came to mind, but this aims to be a family-friendly blog). Or maybe he treats lots of patients that way and it had nothing to do with the television.

So here’s a good part of this story (ok, this saga). I thought it would be appropriate to share my strange experience with the rest of the world (meaning the part of the world that, for some mysterious reason, doesn’t read this blog). Since we now have the internet, I went to a couple of those doctor-rating sites, Healthgrades and Vitals. That last site allows you to enter comments. So I did.

My conclusion was that this doctor might be very good, except for his personality. The treatment plan (the MRI) he recommended made sense. But I wouldn’t recommend him and would never see him again. 

After entering my comment, it occurred to me that maybe I was being a little unfair to the guy. Maybe he was having a bad day. So I looked at the other comments. These are some of my favorites:

Only drawback – he is very hard to talk to or get understandable information from. He gets very impatient with explanations.

He has a big ego. He does not like being questioned…. Instead of giving you understandable answers and showing that he cares, he gets impatient and annoyed very easily.

AVOID [Dr. X] AT ALL COSTS. There is not enough room for his ego and the patient in the exam room.

My experience with [this doctor] was disastrous.

... a horrible and unprofessional surgeon… As [the vomiting] got progressively worse I decided to page [Dr. X]… His words went something like this (and keep in mind I could barely talk because I was vomiting so often) He basically told me that I was interrupting his dinner and that it was not right that I was doing so….I actually started crying so my amazing sister took the phone … This is but one of my horrible experiences with [Dr. X]. Please Please Please Please, I beg you not to see this Doctor!!! 

One of the worst experiences of my life… I told him about the problems I was having after the surgery. He went off the handle and acted very unprofessionally by yelling at me. His behavior made me cry and I never went back to him.

I echo all of the negative comments already posted here: he is impatient, belligerent, insulting, difficult to comprehend, excessively … antagonistic when you explore his incomprehensible answers, actually told me one of my questions was “Bullsh-t”, and that I was wasting his time by asking questions…I would not feel comfortable going under the knife of such a disordered personality. I think he’s sociopathic.

Of course, there are glowing reviews as well. But the lowest grade he gets is for (surprise!) “bedside manner”. All I can say is that if you’re ever in the market for an orthopedic surgeon in or around Springfield, New Jersey, be careful. It’s a jungle out there!

PS — Other people object to all these televisions. From a doctor:

Welcome to the world of the “captive audience… Take them out. Take them all out. That includes the four flat screens on different channels at the local restaurant. I can’t find a single study that shows any legitimate health benefit to support their presence in a doctor’s office, but I can think of 100 reasons to take them out.

From an educational site for doctors:

An informal survey conducted in a variety of waiting rooms found that the presence of television adds to stress, especially when people believe they are unable to control the volume or programming…. If your waiting room includes a television, consider offering patients options. Rather than exposing them to specific programs at a certain volume, for instance, offer television with closed captioning or hygienic headphones on loan from the waiting room desk.

And keep them out of the damn elevators too!

3 thoughts on “It’s My Blog and I’ll Rant About My Visit to the Doctor If I Want To!

  1. Wow, that beats my obnoxious doctor visit earlier this year by far. (Mine got offended that I requested and second opinion and threw me out.)

    I discovered Healthgrades and Vitals myself shortly afterward. Doctors hate those sites, and they’re far from perfect, but the doctors with personality issues tend to get slammed a lot more on them than the ones who only occasionally have a bad day, and it’s at least a little information in a system where the patients rarely get enough. I plan to check them now every time I look for or get referred to a new doctor.

    • I’ve never put much trust in those sites, because I figured that only malcontents would complain. But when you see a pattern like this doctor’s (not a self-aware pattern!), it may be worth paying attention to.

      • I think you definitely have to take what you see there with a grain of salt. A good doctor tells you what you *need* to hear, not necessarily what you *want* to hear. Some people will punish them for that on those sites. So most doctors have at least the occasional nasty comment. It’s when they get a large stream of negative comments across an extended period of time that I tend to rule them out.

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