Specialists: To Wait Or Not to Wait?

A couple of months ago I asked this question on Facebook and Twitter:

Given a choice between a specialist who u could see quickly but with poor bedside manner, or one who was nicer but you had to wait, which??

Most people voted for waiting longer for the better doctor, and a few said to get the quick appointment as long as the doctor was medically competent. I had asked my referring doctor whether both choices would give me good care, and she assured me that they were both just fine as physicians, but that the one with the shorter wait list had a reputation for having a bad bedside manner. Her patients had said that he could be very abrupt and unfriendly.

I should clarify that my reason for seeing this specialist was very minor, and not something that I was anxious about. If it were something serious, or requiring longer term follow-up, my decision may well have been different, but I decided to go with the quicker appointment with the abrupt physician. Interestingly I still had to wait two months to see this doctor, who had the shortest waiting list of all of the specialists available. I wonder how long it would have taken to see the best of the best?

I did go to ratemds.com to do a little bit of extra research. If you aren’t familiar with this website, you can look up physicians and find reviews of them written by patients. I take these reviews with a grain of salt, but if there were a serious problem, it would probably be evident here. The reviews were mixed. A lot of people strongly disliked him and said that they had felt rushed, and that he had been, well, abrupt. But some others had just loved him. No one said that he was medically not competent in any way, and so I was just fine with my decision.

Finally my appointment came. He was on time, introduced himself nicely, shook my hand, made sure we were sitting on the same level and facing each other. He went through everything, answered all my questions, provided some extra options that my family doctor hadn’t offered, and then went on from there. I thought he was great. Courteous and professional. He seemed fairly kind as well and I think I would have been fine with him even if it were something more serious.

I do wonder if this doctor learned of his reputation and changed his ways. Or is every patient just so different that they need different things from their doctor? Maybe this physician has good days and bad days, like the rest of us, but the impact of his bad days would be more significant to a worried patient, than say my bad day would be on the government workers that surround me in my job.

It’s hard to say, but I was pretty happy with how it worked out.

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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10 Responses to Specialists: To Wait Or Not to Wait?

  1. Capital Mom says:

    That's great. Best out outcome you could have asked for.

    I would have taken the quicker appointment too and then just bit my tongue. My husband sees an eye specialist with horrible bedside manners, but in the end it gets him the treatment he needs so it is worth it.

  2. Shannon says:

    I didn't see your original post but I for sure would have taken the shorter wait time provided that the doctor was competent. My personality is able to take abrupt people with a grain of salt, doesn't phase me unless they are outright rude.

    I'm glad you had a good experience!

  3. I don't care about bedside manner…and in my experience, (when it comes to specialists) the highly regarded or “top” doctors, the worse their social skills. (That's a big generalization isn't it?) lol

  4. Anonymous says:

    I guess how you perceive someone is everything – that is the impression one will have of the person – in your case, this specialist came across as a wonderful person too (competence was never in question?). I am glad you had a good visit to the doctor and you were satisfied with the outcome – that is all that counts in the end.

  5. Finola says:

    Thanks All for the comments. It looks like we're all on the same page here. I wonder if age plays a factor too. I think in my 20s a caring doctor would have been more important to me, but after having a couple of kids, maybe not such a big deal anymore?

  6. Liisa says:

    I find it interesting that you consider a “caring doctor” one with a good bedside manner. I think it might be a matter of semantics, but it's just interesting…

    I would call a caring doctor one who provides you with the best medical care, the best information, and the best treatment options, and it sounds like this is what you got.

    As far as sites like RateMDs go, I totally agree. If there was a huge problem, you might find out, but ultimately, it's really a site that rates their personalities.

    Glad it all went well!

  7. Finola says:

    fit for a kid, I think you are right that I have my definition wrong about what a caring doctor is. I do want my questions answered properly, but I don't need someone who will molly-coddle me either.

    The doctor who delivered my second daughter had zero personality all through my pregnancy, but she happened to be the doctor on call the night I delivered, and she was absolutely amazing. I'll take competence over bedside manner any day.

  8. Pamela says:

    I think you're right about everyone having good and bad days and I'm sure being a doctor has got to be a very tough job. Dealing with all those patients day in and out. In my experience, as long as I'm courteous and respectful of the doctor (or anyone for that matter), the better treatment and respect I get in return. Having said that, I do tend to have to wait a long time for an appt. with my family dr. and have waited up to 1.5 hours for a scheduled appt. But, she is so kind, through, and patient that sometimes I overlook the wait.

  9. Hi Finola – I'm glad you were able to get the care you needed in a quick time-frame. I have a wonderful obstetrician whose medical expertise is matched by her wonderful bedside manner, but I'm afraid we're not as lucky with the rest of our family doctors. If only all doctors – and anyone in any profession, I suppose – could treat their clients the way they would like to be treated.

  10. Finola says:

    Pamela, Thanks for your comment. And I would hold onto a good family doc too even if I had to wait a while for appointments.

    Kristen, I completely agree!

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