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  • How Long Should I wait for the Doctor?

    Posted on June 8th, 2012 Patricia No comments

    Your question touches on a sore point for many families — and for pediatricians and their office staff, too. Ideally, on any day all scheduled children should be seen in a timely way, with all their concerns addressed. And all sick or injured children who need to be seen that same day can also be fit in. But you and I know it doesn’t always work that way.

    The challenge of scheduling in a pediatric office is that in most practices, depending on the time of year, 50 percent to 70 percent of the children seen during any day are “added on” — they are seen after a call to the office because of an acute illness such as fever, vomiting, earache or sore throat, or because of an acute injury such as a fall or a twisted ankle.

    The pediatrician’s office staff tries to predict the number of children who should be pre-scheduled (months in advance sometimes) for well-baby checks, camp physicals, sports physicals and follow-up visits for problems such as asthma or bed-wetting. And the staff tries to leave open time to accommodate the children who need to be seen the same day for problems that can’t wait.

    So if your child has a pre-scheduled appointment for a health maintenance exam, and you find the doctor is running late, most likely it is because your doctor has needed to spend extra time with an unanticipated problem or with a very sick child who may need blood tests, an IV or an X-ray.

    What is a reasonable time to wait? I think something less than 20 minutes. In many offices the office nurse or receptionist may inform you that the doctor is delayed because of a very sick child, and may offer you coffee and your child juice, or may ask if you prefer to reschedule or wait.

    Pediatricians and their offices don’t like to run late; they want to be able to accommodate all the patients who need or ask to be seen. Some delay, unfortunately, is inevitable. But do remember that the delay usually means the doctor is being thorough with a problem. And sometimes the doctor may be spending that extra time with your sick child when she needs it.

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