Gadfly as a Calling

It would be unfair to characterize me as a bitch.  Truth be told, I’m not a bitch, but I am one demanding woman.  So I tend to bitch.   And when it comes to business–professional or personal–I am a perfectionist.  What was it Vince Lombardi said?

” . . . we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I haven’t the remotest interest in just being good.”    -First team meeting as Green Bay Packers coach (1959)

Yeah!  That quote gets my juices flowing.  My poor staff can tell you just how demanding I can be (I love them, though I know it doesn’t always seem like I do).  My colleagues know how I push and push to achieve ever higher levels of excellence (oh yes, I have made my share of enemies).  My poor professors probably recall my arguments over their red-lining of my papers (though it always made me a better writer).  Now my physicians are going to discover that I demand a level of excellence from them as well.  I am a gadfly.  You could say it’s a calling.

As far as I’m concerned, good customer service is a non-negotiable.  In a doctor’s office, the receptionist is your front line to the practice.  They may think they’re just there to make appointments and answer the telephone, but what they really do by virtue of every phone call answered, every appointment made, and every problem solved is represent the practice.  And if they are doing a bad job, confidence in that practice could suffer.

I had to call my surgeon’s office yesterday; I needed some medical records sent to an oncologist for a second opinion on my oncological care.  When the individual on the other end answered the telephone, the conversation went like this:  “[unintelligble], I need to put you on hold.”  Something told me it would be interesting to wait this one out.  Ten minutes later I hung up the phone.  There was no conversation.  I never even got to say hello.  I left a message with the office manager and told him about this and asked if I could please have this addressed by close of business.  He called me, apologized, proceeded to assist me, and assured me that he would fax the material right away.  It took less than five minutes with the apology.

Today, after mulling some general concerns, I decided that I would like to speak with my surgeon about some hesitation I had about the oncological end of my care.  I figured he was on or going on vacation, but I thought I would call the office to see if I could speak with him–or leave a message for him to call at his leisure.  The call was answered and I was put on hold.  Five minutes went by.  And finally someone picked up: “Are you being helped?”  After I said no and that I had been on hold for five minutes, she sighed and asked how she could help me.  Sorry I pointed out your bad customer service.  Want me to point out your inappropriate attitude as well?  When I said that this wasn’t for an exam, but I needed to speak with him all I received was a take-it-or-leave-it appointment.  She offered no assistance: didn’t offer to take a message, take a phone number, or even ask how she could facilitate contact.  Frustrated and annoyed, I told her I changed my mind and she hung up the phone.  I didn’t even get to do it first.

So I did what I do best: I took to the keyboard and composed a short, honest, and to-the-point letter that I sent to the office manager and copied to my surgeon.

This is the thing:  People aren’t calling my breast surgeon to have their tits lifted or to have fat sucked out of their ass.  This is a practice where women seek treatment because they have  BREAST CANCER.   So when I call saying that I have some questions about my care and would like to speak with my surgeon, I expect a better level of service.  That I didn’t get that makes me have concerns about my care.  And it makes me have concerns about the practice.

Will I know if my doctor gets a message?  Will information get to me in a timely way?  What if there is an emergency, can I trust this staff to facilitate a solution?  Well, no, I don’t think I can.  A practice among the best in NYC deserves better.  I, as a patient, deserve better.

So when you’re facing a lousy receptionist, a crummy nurse, a nasty doctor, or anyone who is rude to you when you’re facing a potentially deadly diagnosis?  Embrace your inner gadfly and bitch.  That business, if it cares enough, will be glad you did.

Worst Toy Ever from 5-Second Films on Vimeo.

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8 Responses to Gadfly as a Calling

  1. Matt says:

    hope you get an appropriate reply from the doctor. i don’t know what it is with customer service anymore–no one seems to think it’s important except customers…

  2. Scott MacKenzie says:

    Brava! You have every right to better treatment and if you don’t get it you should go elsewhere. I try to temper my expectations with a dose of reality that most of these staff people at these places get minimum wage+ and haven’t had a raise in 5 years. It sucks to be in the work world right now and I have sympathy for people who are overworked. That being said, there is no excuse for the treatment you got… it probably comes from the top (the doctors treat the staff like shit, and they pass it on), so maybe another provider would suit you better.

  3. anomar13 says:

    You are absolutely right on the money. If your surgeon is that good, he will care about how his staff is acting. Our ENT had a staff that was absolutely horrible, after he got enough complaints, he ended up replacing all three of his “queen bees” with normal, respectful, efficient women. Now is the time to set the ground rules, not when your sick from chemo; and as far as anyone calling you a bitch, unfortunately, that is sometimes the only way to get things done.

    • Scorchy says:

      I work with someone who told me very proudly that she was a bitch because that is how she gets things done. I responded that strong professional women like us often get tagged with such an epithet. She looked at me annoyed, as if to say, “But *I* am the bitch!”

  4. Good for YOU! I’m sorry they were so bad, but I am so happy that you called them on it and took to sending the surgeon & office manager a note! You have enough on your plate w/breast cancer…you should be treated with kindness and respect…heck, even without BC, that’s the way we all should be treated! 🙂

  5. Crystal says:

    Boy, this makes me want to spit nails! Remember me telling you that Dr. Gleason and staff give you all the time you need? After my SLNB Thursday, the surgeon gave me her home number and her cell number and told me to call at any time.

    That is the kind of care you deserve, and it makes me angry you are not getting it. I wish I could send my team to NYC just for you. Keep looking. We have breast cancer. That deserves the highest level of service and compassionate people, including the office staff. We are not just a number in a big pool of patients.


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