Waiting on the Doc

When you have a doctor’s appointment, how long do you typically have to wait?

I decided to ask this because of the responses in the 2PM-appointment thread. It seems it is not normal to have to wait an hour or more, despite that being the norm in my neck-of-the-woods.

At the Uni (UK), for both visits I had to wait a very short time, didn’t have time to pick a magazine and start reading. Both were very early appointments.

Back home (Spain), it depends on whether you are early or late in the list, as most doctors’ times slide. Early, expect punctuality; very late, you’re allowed to cuss doctors and their ancestors if the delay goes over one hour.
If you get 8am, count on being sitting down in front of the doctor before the clock moves to 8:01; if you get 2pm, bring a good book or some knitting, because it’s possible that you’ll be in at 14:00 but also that you’ll have to wait until 15:30. If you ask, find out there’s a 1h delay and decide to run errands, or if you’re just late, and you happen to get called up while not there - you lose the spot and get moved behind the last appointment: “she’s gone to the toilet” is considered an acceptable excuse, the patient behind you will get ahead of you but you don’t get moved all the way back.

Depends upon the doctor’s office and the time of day. Busy offices have longer wait times, and afternoon appointments are often delayed. In general, it ususally isn’t longer than about 30 minutes, if that long. The walk-in clinic is different - plan to spend about two hours up there - but that doesn’t count since there is no appointment.

Yesterday I had an appt. at 9:00. I got there at 8:40. They took me in at 8:45. The doc saw me at 9:05.

I try to schedule first thing in the morning, giving the doctor less of a chance to get behind during the day.

Depends on the doctor. My GP isn’t too bad - she’s usually runs about 15 minutes late but I really like her so I stick with her. I had a OBGYN who was horrible - she would routinely run an hour to two hours late. I found a new one who is pretty much on time although I have had an appointment cancelled when I was already naked and in the stirrups because another patient went into labor…

If I see a nurse practitioner at my GP’s office I am in talking with her within 5 minutes of my scheduled appointment. My appointments can last up to a half hour as we go over everything.

I’ve waited up to 90 mins to see my actual GP, and then saw him for a rushed 10 minutes. That made me furious!

Typically I have to wait at least a half hour, or more, to see my GP.

My dentist, optometrist and OBGYN are always timely.

Depends. Typically with my internist and gynecologist, I’m seen within a 10 minute window (early or late) of the appointment time. I was especially surprised with the internist when I went back in October (prime flu season, waiting room filled with patients sniffling and wearing masks) and was seen early.

When I broke my wrist, my orthopedist was really on time. My last appointment, I was sick with bronchitis and half-asleep so I wasn’t really paying attention to the fact that I had been in a room for maybe a half-hour with no one checking in. The door opened and a surprised-looking nurse looked at me, checked the chart, and burst out in apologies how I’d been put in the wrong room (and apparently been forgotten about). She and I ran into him in the back hall and she quickly explained to him what had happened. I saw his eyes narrow and he said sternly, “Find out who did this.” I got right into a room, with many apologies from her and the doctor, and was seen quickly.

With some doctors you may find that you may be seen later due to the nature of the practice. With others it’s the doctor him/herself - I have worked for one who could rip through an overfull schedule in four hours (and leave patients feeling that they understood their problems and the treatment suggested) that for another particular doctor it would take at least double that time for the same number of patients and even then you’d worry about when you would be walking out the door that night. One doctor I used to work for would spend an hour talking with “VIP” patients while the other patients squirmed and grouched in the waiting room, but people went to him because of his deserved reputation plus his self-promotion. (Pray you weren’t on the schedule if another MD was on the schedule too.)

I work in ophthalmology and we often get patients sent over from other doctors as emergency walk-ins; typically these are patients who have just suffered a retinal detachment and need rapid evaluation and treatment, though there are other walk-ins as well. A small detachment can be fixed on the spot with a laser, and so the doctor brings the patient back to the laser room and spends a while working on that instead of seeing other patients, or maybe the to-be-lasered patient waits up to an hour while he gets some patients in then delays others for the laser; a more major one involves lots of explanation as to what kind of surgery is going to be scheduled within a couple days, lots of talk about risks, chance of eyesight restoration/other problems, and so on. I remember one day apologizing to a research patient as we’d had three retinal detachments push the schedule so that it was running very late. We got him into a room, and when the doctor took a look at him, this guy had a retinal detachment too! His vision was very poor in that eye so he hadn’t really noticed a change, but it had to be stopped before it started interfering with the parts of his vision that he still had.

I used to work in pediatric cardiology and we had a lot of times when we had way over-stuffed clinic schedules. Before or at the beginning of the school year were bad times (sports clearance, doctor’s note for getting to ride the bus/phys ed restrictions), and I mentioned in another thread that we pretty regularly had teens with musculoskeletal chest pain who had to be crammed onto the schedule as an emergency lest they be in the tiny percent that drop dead first on the basketball court or something, as a result of an actual cardiac problem. There were also the parents who had a kid with basically no residual heart problems but needed yearly visits, and were shocked that they couldn’t get a same-day or same-week (or same-month, often) appointment for a non-urgent yearly visit. (“My child has a heart problem!” I often heard. I never followed up with, “So do all of the other children we see.”) And naturally we had a whole lot of urgent walk-ins sent over by other pediatricians when they heard heart murmurs, especially if there were other symptoms, and these throw the schedule into chaos.

That practice had an awesome young doctor who was very sought-after by other doctors, to the point where they’d stop him in the halls with questions about a possible referral patient. Then he’d run into clinic, late, and spend as long as any family needed to calm fears and answer questions. I had one mother call up looking for a doc for her child, and she asked me which of ours I would recommend. I danced around the question for a bit, talking up each of them, then finally said I thought he was our absolute best. She asked if he ran on time and I gave it to her straight - definitely not, never, but when she was waiting in the waiting room, he would be in a room talking with another family about their child’s heart problem and answering all their questions, and when it was her child’s turn, he would do the same for her. She picked him. I didn’t talk him up much over the others - his clinics were stuffed full anyway, constantly, but word-of-mouth got around too, and people sought him out.

My doctor usually sees me on time or close to it. I’ve had the odd longer wait, but even that’s usually no more than 15 minutes.

The only time I had to wait a significantly longer amount of time has been when I got squeezed in at the last minute.

I always make the first appointment of the day, which is easy because I really only go every 6 months so I can just ask for any day where the first appt is available 6 months out.

The last time I saw a specialist in the middle of the day I left after 15 minutes. It was a small office and it was pretty obvious he wasn’t even there, so I went out and asked and left when they told me he was on an important call and they couldn’t estimate when he’d be available. I don’t know if that makes me an asshole but I don’t consider my time any less valuable than the doctor’s. It would’ve been one thing if he was even there and running behind, but they didn’t even have an estimate when he would return to the building.

My new doctor is very good for being on time for appointments. Other doctors I had were not, and like Fuzzy Dunlop, I consider my time as valuable as a doctor’s. I’ll wait as long as I need to at a walk-in clinic or emergency room, but if I’ve gone to the trouble to make an appointment, I expect to be seen close to that time, especially with a general practitioner who shouldn’t be having life-threatening emergencies at their practice regularly.

Specialists here are particularly bad for making patients with appointments wait; I get that they have emergencies and are called away from their practices, but that doesn’t make it okay to make patients scheduled appointments wait for hours. I’d rather get a some realistic communication and make a decision based on that - “He got called away for an emergency surgery. He’ll probably be back later this afternoon. Would you like to wait or re-schedule?” wouldn’t thrill me, but it’s better than waiting endlessly with no communication.

These days, very little time. My dentist is always within 5 minutes of the appointment time. If he has an emergency the receptionist will call those with later appointments and ask if they’d like to reschedule.

My current GP is pretty good, too. Usually not more than 10 minutes, less if it’s early in the morning.

Back in the day when I had a gynocologist, they would often get the schedule waaaay backed up, and it was usually because of someone going into labor. Usually they would also ask those waiting if they’d like to reschedule.

I have a couple of times had a prolonged wait for a doctor, which was especially irritating since I’d called ahead to see if they were running late since I had to take off from work. Never went back to either of those practices.

From someone who worked at a doctor’s office once: the two best times to schedule appointments are first thing in the morning and around 12:30 in the afternoon - right after the doc is getting back from lunch. If they’re severely backed up, the doc will usually work through lunch to get their schedule back on track and will have a normal afternoon, at least for a little while.