Waiting. Sitting. Waiting and more sitting seems to be the life of the special needs family. Whether it’s in the doctor’s office, hospital setting for various therapies, or a gazillion other venues for which we can’t just hop in, get in line, and be like most everyone else; waiting is the challenge. The other challenge is getting the office staff not only to hear you but understand you.
The times I’ve had to wait for a doctor (when it seemed to be like waiting for a rainstorm to stop to bolt to the car) I’ve just had to say or do something. Why? First, because my time is important, too, and I’ve planned my day and my child’s day around eating, naps, and life; so when we are made to wait with little children and/or a child with special needs who can’t sit still let alone wait for long periods of time, it’s really difficult to expect good behavior, no melt downs, and a docile child the entire time let alone a parent who will be willing to endure all that.
From early on, when one particular “specialist” had me waiting in the waiting from well over 2 hours from our appointment time, I learned to speak up. In this case after many others were seen who had appointment times well after my scheduled time (I knew because I asked the patient or caregiver) I marched to the front desk (after having been there about 3 other times to “see how things were coming along for our appointment”) and asked, “So, in this practice do you see patients by appointment, first come first served, or just as they walk in because they want to see the doctor? We’ve been waiting for over 2 hours and I will wait only 5 more minutes before I leave and will send you a bill for my time of waiting.” I was seen immediately with my 5 year old special needs son.
3 WAYS to get the OFFICE STAFF to Hear Me:
1-ANNOUNCE YOUR ARRIVAL and NAME. When you go to the window be sure they look at you (if they don’t; see #3). If they don’t “see” you they might not remember you’re there. Besides, it’s a common courtesy.
2-STATE YOUR APPOINTMENT TIME and ask them if they are ON TIME like you are (be on time). Let them know that you can wait (your call on how long) 30 minutes, “but after that I have another appointment and must leave.” (They don’t need to know what appointment you have. Maybe your next appointment is in the same building or hospital; your child’s needed nap; dinner to be made; or getting a fun coffee because you made it through this part of the day. It isn’t their business to know your business; it’s their business to know their business and that is to see you at your appointed time.) There are always exceptions for emergencies: your being late or their being late, but if you are late, apologizing kindly in hopes they’ll see you or reschedule is very important. If they “blow you off” because you’re tardy, see #3. If you’re always on time but this time something happened (road construction, etc.) tell them. Make sure they know your “record” of promptness.
3-LOOK THEM IN THE EYE and be sure they are doing the same. If they don’t look at you; don’t talk. If they look away; stop. If they walk away; call them politely. If they interrupt you; stop talking and do not continue talking until they look you in the eye. Tell them nicely, “I need you to look at me because you do not seem to be listening and that makes me feel like you are not caring that we are here.” After you’ve said this a few times they will realize you mean business and YOU ARE IMPORTANT.
These 3 suggestions should allow for a good and timely office visit, but remember that losing your cool is not cool. Find another motivator (“I’ll send you a bill for my time of waiting which is now 2+ hours.”). In the case of my long wait that I shared at the start of this blog; I found another doctor who we’ve now been with for over 30 years! That was my motivator.
My husband was a dentist. He could probably count on one hand in 41 years how many patients he made wait. If he knew he was behind for whatever reason (a patient needed to talk; the procedure took longer; there was an emergency) he would have his receptionist call the next patient or two and let them know the situation so they were not made to wait. They could come a little later or reschedule or even go run an errand; but their time was just as important as his. No specialist is above this protocol. They need to respect your time and you need to respect their time. Hold them to it.
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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