Thursday, December 13, 2007


I picked up the patient's chart, glanced over it briefly, and knocked on the door. As I entered the exam room, I extended out my hand.

Me: Hi, I'm Dr. THW, how are you?

Impatient patient: [hands on her hip, glaring] I'll tell you how I am. I got here at 1:30 just like it said on my appointment slip. I sat out there in the hall for over an hour before you guys called my name. And then I sat in this room for almost 30 minutes before you decided to come in. And I bet blah blah blah...

I stopped listening. I simply did not care. I watched this woman rant away about how long we've kept her waiting, how she's got important things to do, and how we're the most inept group of people she's ever met. After she had a chance to blow off some steam, I apologized for the wait, joked about how doctors are never on time, and put the focus back on the surgical problem that brought her to the clinic.

What really aggravates me is that she's at a free clinic, getting free medical care at the expense of tax payers. A brief glance at her demographic sheet shows that she's unemployed and on disability. I'm sure she indeed has important things to do and places to be, but if you don't have employment responsibilities, why schedule them for the same day you're going to see the doctor?

I can't understand it. Instead of thanking us for seeing her for free, the first few words out of her mouth are all complaints. I think this happens because this country is full of people with bloated self-importance who feel like they're entitled to something. We've become a nation of spoiled brats. It's a rarity when I get a patient in that free clinic who is actually thankful for the services I provide for them. Sadly, it's usually the non-English speaking immigrants that actually thank me and my staff, and are truly grateful for our help. I guess you just have to come from a place where you've been ignored to appreciate what this country does for its citizens.

My apology for the wait seemed to appease her and her mood slowly lightened up. During the examination, I continued to make small talk and asked about her Thanksgiving. She then got all excited about the post-Thanksgiving shopping.

Impatient patient: [talking excitedly] ...and I saved over $100 at Wal-Mart on that new TV!

Turns out that she had waited in line outside of Wal-Mart for hours and hours that morning after Thanksgiving to be one of the first 10 people in the store. She had rushed in and was one of the few lucky people to snag a new TV for $100 off the sale price.

From the few minutes I spent examining her, I can see that she'll require an operation that will cost the tax payers about $45,000. Of which she'll pay absolutely nothing. And she'll never feel thankful that this was provided for her. She'll just feel that she was entitled to it.

Lining up outside a Wal-Mart and spending the night sitting on the concrete in the elements to save $100 probably never bothered her, yet sitting in the waiting room of an air-conditioned building for a couple hours to get a $45,000 operation for free causes her so much anguish that she lashes out at the very person that's trying to help her.

She has no idea how lucky she is to live in a country that provides for its citizens in such a way.

I'm sure she caught me smirking, but I just couldn't believe the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

I finished working her up for the operation, sent her on her way, finished writing in her chart, and moved on to the next patient. As I picked up their chart outside the exam room, I wondered if another spoiled American was waiting behind that door.