Sick is yet another word that now has a double meaning. At one point, sick only meant that you were not feeling well. Now sick can also mean great. For example, I could say (if I was remotely cool and not over 50), “Those shoes are sick.” On the flip side, if I said I was sick, I’m sure (sort of) that I would be telling people that felt unwell and not that I was the most awesome human being in the world. I wouldn’t know whether to love or curse a son who said, “You’re sick mom.”
This is the reason that medical customer service can be sick (either unhealthy or really great).
Catheter is a Number One Priority
The other day my father-in-law went to emergency and had to have a catheter inserted. Until he can see a urologist, a catheter is his new best friend. Getting sick over the holidays is never a good idea, because many people (including specialists) are on a break from work because of the Christmas holidays.
The first replacement was to be done on New Year’s Day. When the nurse arrived, she discovered that the main supply was missing. There was no catheter. She asked my mother-in-law if she had one.
What a question. Doesn’t everyone have a spare catheter tucked away in a drawer somewhere? Unfortunately, there was no catheter to be found and the adrenaline rush my father-in-law felt preparing for this magical moment was wasted. He would just have to mentally prepare himself on another day.
Another day turned out to be the next day. To the nurse’s credit, she went above and beyond to get a catheter and came the next day to do the replacement. This time my father-in-law only had a few hours to prepare for the medical procedure of his dreams. In the end, the replacement went well and it was not as bad as my father-in-law feared.
The dream is that the replacement catheter will be there (at my in-laws’) the following Wednesday, the fear of the procedure will be minimal, there will not be any complications with the insertion, and an early appointment will be arranged with a specialist so that the cycle of catheter replacements can end.
Allergic Reaction to Incompetence
In an effort to determine if I had cancer, I had a ductogram. I’ve never heard anyone else say they have had one, so if you haven’t had one, consider yourself lucky. If you like the squishing of a mammogram, try having a needle inserted in your nipple and die injected before you have the squishing done…still with the needle in place. It was a blast. The only problem was that I had a slight rash on my chest after the test, so there was the possibility that I had an allergic reaction. The reaction (if there was one) was so slight that no one knew for sure if the rash was really an allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, the test results were inconclusive so I had to have the test done again. Both my doctor (GP) and I contacted the imaging area to make sure that a possible allergic reaction had been taken into consideration so, if needed, a different dye could be used. We were assured that the test would be done.
When I returned to have my test completed, my adrenaline levels were at an all-time high. When the radiologist found out that I had potentially had an allergic reaction to the dye, he refused to perform the test and my adrenaline levels went even higher, although this time it was because I was furious and not because I was afraid.
My husband drove me to see our family doctor. When I went to the front desk, the receptionist asked me what I was there for and I responded, “Incompetence”. You should have seen the look on people’s faces. I got in to see my doctor and I vented to the full extent of the law. It didn’t really fix the problem, but it did help bring me down from my emotional high. So, while I did not receive good customer service at the hospital, my doctor provided good customer service by listening and showing the correct level of irritation about my experience.
Know-it-All Syndrome Not Eradicated
While the medical system has improved so that patients are more likely to question their doctors, there are people who still don’t feel comfortable doing that and there are, unfortunately, some doctors who believe they should not be questioned and that they know everything.
I was exposed to such a creature when I had to see a new oncologist while my regular one was on vacation. I had no problem with my regular oncologist, but the person who filled in was not a good listener and acted like she knew everything, including whether or not the chemo was affecting my epilepsy. This was extremely frustrating. I tried to get her to talk to my neurologist, but she kept talking about how he wouldn’t know anything about cancer. Ironically, she didn’t apply the same logic to identify that she didn’t know anything about the inner workings of a brain and the impact that chemo could have on it.
With this adrenaline rush, I could not sleep the night before my next chemo treatment. This ended up being a blessing. I was able to sleep through my entire five-hour treatment. So while this started as a bad customer service experience, it (to some extent) became a positive one because my treatment seemed to go so quickly. Luckily my regular oncologist returned from vacation.
Absence of Epilepsy Diagnosis or Treatment
Epilepsy can be difficult to diagnose in the best of circumstances, but in a small town where you are probably the only person there who has epilepsy, it can be difficult. For me, I would stare into space for several seconds (sometimes longer). Sometimes I made a gurgling sound and sometimes my eyes rolled back into my head. It all sounds so appealing, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that my doctor would believe that I would do this intentionally so that I would get more attention. Yes, this is sarcasm.
Almost 50 years ago, when my seizures first began, doctors knew everything and you really didn’t question them. So, since my doctor thought I was having these staring spells so that I could get attention, he decided that my seizures would stop if he just kept me away from my family. My parents allowed me to be hospitalized and promised not to visit. It was a traumatic experience for both me and my parents. Ultimately the doctor admitted defeat and sent me to see a specialist, who diagnosed my epilepsy and started me on medication that would reduce my seizures from 200 a day to 30.
Award-Worthy Customer Service
Sometimes, when you’re sick (in the ‘not well’ sense), the focus is on the patient and not the person. My nurse navigators were the people who recognized and dealt with the human side of cancer. One of my nurses was June. She was the best. She always went the extra mile to get me answers to my questions. No question was stupid and she was such a warm and friendly person. One time she left a message on my phone that was so nice and unexpected that it made me cry.
I nominated her for an award and, while she didn’t win, I hope I showed her just how special she was to me. There was nothing negative associated with her customer service. She was more like the poster child of what customer service should be all about.
It’s amazing that we will demand better service at a restaurant, but we will accept subpar service in a medical situation. If you don’t feel you are being listened to or getting the answers you need, get another opinion. Go to another doctor. Go to a different medical facility. Recognize that bad service in a restaurant may be just a bad experience, but bad customer service from a doctor or medical facility can be deadly. If you want to pick your battles, make sure the battle you choose is about your healthcare. While the results can be either good or bad, the feelings you associate with that experience is what you will remember. Your overall experience will determine whether you would return to see the same doctor and use the same medical facility in the future. It will also impact whether you would provide a recommendation to someone else.
Good customer service and the overall customer experience is critical.
Over 30-years of writing experience, about 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
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