A parent called this morning asking to have her 7-year old daughter seen for a cough. My receptionist offered her 11:00am today, to which the parent replied, "well, I can't wait that long. I'll just take her to the ER."
The parent called back 10 minutes later asking for the 11:00am appointment.
In my office we do our best to get sick patients seen on the same day. We'll sometimes double-book or tell people to come in at 4:00pm--"You may have to wait, but you will be seen." Children who sound really sick are asked to come in right away and squeezed into the schedule.
I have no patience for parents that think a same-day appointment is unacceptable.
First, two hours might get you seen in the ED. If they're busy, it might not. So we get you in for an appointment before the ED--a walk-in facility--could even see you. (Aside from the fact that the most demanding parents tend to have children with relatively minor problems which don't even warrant being seen in an ED.)
Second, try this with any other specialty. Call up your internist and ask for an appointment today. I'd suggest you could use a stopwatch to see how long they laugh before they compose themselves and ask you, "are you serious? Our first available appointment is in 1 week."
Third, try this with any other profession. Call up your auto mechanic. I dare you to throw a hissy fit if they can't squeeze in your timing-belt replacement in the next 2 hours. See if your hairdresser will bend over backwards to get you in for a perm in the next 20 minutes.
I understand we are dealing with sick children, and anxious parents. But we pediatricians seem to get the least respect and the most outlandish demands, for reasons that tend to have little to do with the acuity of illness and more with the convenience of parents. ("I can't make it at 3pm, I have an appointment. If you can't accomodate me at the time I want, I'll just find someone else who can.")
One of these days, in a world without HIPAA privacy regulations, I'm tempted to ask one of these demanding parents: here is a list of the patients already scheduled this morning. You're welcome to call them, ask if they would give up their spot for you, and call us back when you find someone willing to do that.
There's no upbeat ending or silver lining to this post, just something I had to gripe about.