I pit "Fran" the receptionist at my doctors office

I’m pretty sure there was other trouble, and I know that she was fired immediately by the doctor. Living in a pretty small town means that HIPAA or not, incidents at the doctor office tend to circulate. She’d been well known to give patients a hard time for years before that, but it took screwing up majorly before her employment there ended.

His current receptionist (this is a practice of only one doctor, one nurse, and two medical assistant/receptionsists) can be really tough to get an appointment out of, but thankfullly hasn’t given me too much difficulty when I say I need to come in right away because of the hives.

She gives my sister a hard time, but then again, my sister’s pushy and insistant and deserves it.

I think doctors office receptionists in general should have much better training at what conditions constitute ‘come in right away’ and which ones mean ‘call an ambulance immediately’ type of things. If they have no medical training at all, how would they know that (for example) my chronic hives can so rapidly and unexpectedly progress into an ‘I cannot breathe and need epinephrine now.’ situation.

Thankfully though, my doctor has immense understanding and has told me to just show up should that happen. He rushes me in, gives me the shot, and then I can sit there in the rear waiting area for a little while for observation by him and the nurse.

I do sometimes feel guilty that I’ve ‘skipped ahead’ of all the other patients who are waiting, who probably have absolutely no idea that it’s a really urgent situation but, thankfully, a quick one to stabilize.

I am bipolar and was having really, really bad symptoms from May until the end of July. I was about to lose my family, house, and even my dog if something wasn’t done immediately. The psychiatrist that I had been seeing moved to a new hospital that didn’t take my type insurance. I called several hospitals, told the receptionist my problem and requested an appointment. The standard response was “Well I am sorry, but everything is booked up for at least four months. I can try to squeeze you in then but you will probably have to see a resident”. WTF, I would have been dead by then.

I had to do something. I picked the most prestigous hospital and drove there. They don’t even have an emergency room because they are a dedicated psychiatric hospital. I walked up to the receptionist (probably the same bitch that I had talked to earlier) and told her that I had plans to commit suicide within the hour if I wasn’t admitted. This wasn’t entirely untrue. I was having suicidal fantasies but no real plan.

Bingo! I was walked upstairs, admitted, and I saw several doctors within the hour. I stayed there for 6 days and got great care and attention. I am happy to say that I am all fixed up now.

Fast forward to yesterday. I called for a follow-up appointment yesterday and got the same bitch receptionist and asked to make an appointment as soon as possible to get my lithium levels checked. She types my name into the computer and says “That’s weird, they didn’t assign you a follow-up doctor when you were discharged”. I replied “Oh, they mentioned something about that. They told me to start with any doctor that is available and I will be assigned a permanent one later.” She says, “Well I get you in in about four months”. WTF, is she just a manequinn with a string that someone pulls to say the same thing over and over?

I had to go to the same hospital yesterday for a study that I am participating in. After I was done. I walked up to the receptionist window and told her that I needed to see someone right away. “Why”, she asks gruffly. I asked her if she knows what lithium is. She nods. I tell her that I just started taking lithium while inpatient there and I was pretty sure that I was developing acute lithium toxicity and it could do irrepairable damage and may even be FATAL. Again, not exactly a lie because how would I know if my blood lithium levels were too high because she refused to let me see anyone to get it checked. I am supposed to get it checked at least once a month for at least the next six months or it could be dangerous. She scheduled me an appointment for early next week.

In both of these cases I knew that I really needed medical treatment and had to resort to scare tactics to get it. I don’t feel bad about it at all because I know that I needed to be there as much as anyone and I had to take care of my own interest because some bitch receptionist didn’t really care if I lived or died.

If you really know that you need medical care as soon as possible then don’t be shy about expressing your most serious symptoms and conclude with the worst case scenario. For all you know, it may be true.

As Shagnasty has described, you do sometimes have to lie to get treatment you need – just don’t do it too often.

In the exact middle of my second pregnancy, I contracted some sort of intestinal illness. I was unable to keep any nourishment in (it went out either one end or the other) for most of a week. I was getting very weak, and very scared. The GP wouldn’t treat me because I was pregnant. The OB wouldn’t treat it because it was not an obstetrical problem. At least according to the gatekeepers. I tried one doctor after another. Finally one clever receptionist told me what to do: Call the OB back and tell them you’re bleeding. Then they will see you for sure. When you get there, tell them the bleeding’s stopped. Since you’re there already they’ll treat your other problem. When I finally did see the doctor, he himself had no problem dealing with prescribing the appropriate med that would help me and not hurt the baby.

More recently, my daughter had a problem and couldn’t get the m.d. to see her. It was a weekend and we couldn’t get past the answering service. So we started calling them hourly, asking them to page the doctor. After a few of those, he called back.

The Frans of the world need to not be allowed to work until they’ve been trained properly.

There was a Fran at the HMO doctor’s office I used to go to. Once I was having a terrible asthma attack – only I hadn’t been diagnosed with asthma yet and didn’t know I had it. I thought I had bronchitis or something. All I knew is I couldn’t stop coughing, my chest felt tight and I was having trouble breathing. To any receptionist properly trained in triage, I think this should have gotten me in right quick, if not sent to the ER immediately.

I managed to get a same-day appointment, and proceeded to sit in the waiting room for an hour an a half in severe respiratory distress. I’m sure if they’d have let me sit there for another couple of hours, I could have simply collapsed and died right there in the waiting room.

I picked up my cell phone – too weak and sick to walk up to the window – and called the receptionist from my seat in the waiting room to ask if they’d forgotten about me. I thought an hour and a half was pretty unacceptable and I knew I’d been “worked in” that day, so how would I have known if they remembered I was sitting out there or not? This Fran’s polite and professional, triage-trained response was to hang up on me. (Which made everyone else in the waiting room quite amused because the woman sitting next to me was loudly giving everyone a play-by-play.)

Turns out, I was seen about five minutes later and spent the next half hour on a nebulizer. It was two days before I was able to breathe properly. Because I didn’t even know that was asthma, I didn’t even know to tell her the situation was more serious. To me, respiratory distress equals, “see the fucking patient immediately.” Next time, I’m skipping that bullshit and heading straight for the ER… now that I know I have asthma. I think the OP’s entire point is, yes these people should be trained because we are not the fucking doctors. Like the appendicitis patient above – sometimes your amateur self-diagnosis is bullshit and that’s why we call the doctor.

Other people’s stories about attempting to get medical care scare me. I’m still insured for a while yet and guaranteed at least some access to the opinion of a competent physician while Qadgop’s still kicking around… but I think I’ll go befriend a few premeds from long-lived families, just in case…