GP Magazine 4 April 2016
‘Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful’ – Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.
Waiting is something we doctors don’t comprehend; we’re always busy, always rushing, always overstretched. It may even have a bright side; watchful waiting, or masterly inactivity, we call it, as we know things often get better on their own, or that a bit of time can make the picture clearer.
In contrast, waiting is a huge, exhausting, and onerous part of the patient experience.
They wait for an appointment to see us. They wait while I explain that antibiotics are not appropriate in this case, have many side-effects, and contribute to the global problem of antibiotic resistance, and then They wait as I grudgingly write out the prescription for an antibiotic.
If They have be referred Their problems are only starting, as They are then plunged headlong into the labyrinth of bureaucratic healthcare inefficiency.
They wait for the specialist appointment, for weeks, months, maybe years. They wait for the scan or scans, They wait for the report on the scan, which can be good or bad news. They wait for whatever procedure may be indicated, and probably have it postponed a few times just to add to the ordeal. And if admitted to hospital, every day They will wait for the ward-round and for visits from family and friends.
I tell my young colleagues, ‘Your patient will have been waiting for you, sometimes for hours and weeks, even months, so no matter how busy you are, give them your full attention.’
But sometimes it has a happy ending.
‘I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes,’ complained Joe.
‘Then I’ve got good news, Joe; no more waiting,’ I reassured him.,’There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.’