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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

A Calmer You by Sonal Kalra: When doctors test patients’ patience!

Of all people, doctors shouldn’t be adding to our stress. Don’t you agree? This is what happened when I got a taste of changing weather. True story, no exaggeration.

columns Updated: Oct 07, 2017 17:50 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
Did you know that sick talk, too, has an etiquette list?
Did you know that sick talk, too, has an etiquette list?

If you think I’m going to irritate you by talking about viral fever, dengue, Chikungunya, then…then…then you are so right. How perceptive of you, no? The thing is that everyone I know knows someone who is sick right now. So, I’ve noticed that sick-talk, too, has an etiquette list. Like, if you want to talk about dengue or chikungunya (The disease is anyway a torture, why make it worse by giving it a name like that?), make a grim face, shake your head with a sigh and say, ‘It’s unbelievably painful, no? Take a lot of fluids. Stay away from mosquitoes.’ (As opposed to what — playing badminton with them every evening?).

If the other person replies he is down with bad cold and cough (my problem right now, and hence this attempt at a rehash), say something vague like ‘Changing-weather hai. You must take special care.’ I swear no one knows when to use ‘changing weather’ in the scientific sense, but people buy this remark with seriousness all through the year.

All this reminds me of a write-up of mine that focused on the stress one has to face in visiting the doctor, especially during the viral infection season, which now lasts twelve months in a year.

This is what happened when I got a taste of changing weather. True story, no exaggeration.

Me: I have fever and bad cold since morning. I think I should see a doctor.

Colleague 1: Viral hoga. Antibiotic le lo. Augmentin 625 mg. Do gargles and inhale steam.

Colleague 2: Don’t take such strong medicines. Take ginger and honey and black pepper.

Colleague 3: Homeopathy works like magic in this viral. Hum toh preventive bhi le lete hain. No side effects, you see.

Colleague 4: Only Patanjali. Giloy Vati + Tulsi Vati

Me: Are these names of women?

Me (next morning): The cough has worsened. Let me see a doctor today.

Colleague 1: I know the best physician. It’s a bit crowded at his clinic so let me know when you’re going, I’d give him a call.

Me: That’s okay. Just give me the number, I’ll fix an appointment. So, I call up at the doc’s clinic and ask for a 6.30pm appointment.

Receptionist: Sorry, 6.30 slot is booked. I can give you 7.18pm.

Me (pleased with the professionalism): That’s fine. I reach at 7.10pm for my 7.18pm appointment and see at least 40 patients, all at various degrees of distress and coughing at various volumes. I go up to the receptionist.

Me: I have a 7.18pm appointment.

Receptionist (notes down my name): Please wait. The doctor is about to reach from his other clinic.

Me: When will my turn come? I’m on time for my appointment.

Receptionist: When he comes, we’ll start with the patients from the 5.30pm slot first. You are at Number 42.

Me: What’s the point in giving me an appointment for a certain time then?

Receptionist: Yawwwwn. Aap meri TV screen ke aage aa rahe ho. Please sit and wait. Doctor saab will reach anytime now.

The good doctor comes in at 7.30, and suddenly the coughing in the waiting lounge becomes louder. Mr Verma and Mr Kapoor, both with the 5.30 appointment are fighting with the receptionist on who will go inside first. ‘Hum Noida se aaye hain,’ says Verma. ‘Noida koi America hai,’ argues Kapoor. Meanwhile, the receptionist calls out for Mrs Malhotra out of turn and sends her inside. Suddenly Verma ji and Kapoor ji are united-in-victimisation and question the receptionist. ‘Woh Dr Saab ko personally jaanti hain. She only has to show her reports,’ the highly irritated, and highly irritating receptionist replies. ‘Isiliye Kejriwal rota hai. Everywhere corruption hai ji,’ Verma ji shakes his head.

Finally, my turn comes at 9.40pm, and 22 seconds later, I emerge with a prescription that advises: Augmentin 625, do gargles and inhale steam. ‘700 rupees’, the receptionist says. ‘Please give change,’ she adds. “Please change,” I tell her, while dishing out 700 bucks. She doesn’t get the sarcasm.

I don’t really know what calmness tips to give in the situation I described above. By no means can we undermine the importance or value of doctors and the significant role they play in our well being.

Having some close friends in the medical profession, I know the stress and challenges doctors have to face everyday — the biggest one being, having to deal with the ‘Internet doctors’ all patients have become these days. We Google our symptoms, we Google medicine names, we Google test reports. This awareness can sometimes be a blessing, but is more often a tool to question a doctor’s advice with cynicism.

But that said, the doctors also need to see if the entire experience of visiting them is reducing, or adding stress to their patient’s condition. May I put forward these demands to our doctor friends….

1) Please schedule your day in such a way that you reach your clinics on time. An exceptional emergency is perfectly understandable in your profession, but having a room full of sick and already stressed people constantly staring at the clock and sighing, everyday, is not. And, please do not take up more patients than you can practically see, and pay attention to, on any given day. I know this means less money, but it also means getting a life. Reaching home at midnight everyday with stacks of cash still means reaching home to family members who are asleep.

2) Please fix a separate time during your day, if possible, for pharmaceutical representatives and influential patients who come with sifarish. To a patient who is in a bad condition and waiting for two hours, it isn’t easy to digest another person cutting the queue and breezing in, just because you wanted to oblige someone. They will not say it on your face because yours is a noble profession and you are a life saver, but it hurts the respect that should naturally come for you.

3) Hire polite and cheerful receptionists. Please.

Sonal Kalra just Googled her symptoms and realised that she might be suffering from lymphocercoma of the brain due to changing weather. Please suggest some specialist. Mail her at, Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 16:43 IST