Why Does It Take So Long To Do A Workup Or To See The Doctor?

Playing the “hurry up and wait” game— why does it take so long to do a workup or to see the doctor? One of the most common complaints we hear from patients and their caregivers is about waiting. Waiting for test results, waiting to see the doctor, waiting for procedures, and more waiting.

Waiting to see doctors is so common that we as patients come to expect it. However, after a cancer diagnosis, when you may have many appointments, or go regularly to the hospital, this waiting can become particularly annoying. Coupled with the already higher stress levels, waiting can be extremely frustrating. There are many reasons for the long waits. Sometimes tests or preparation is required before some procedures, such as blood work before receiving chemotherapy.

Other times, paperwork needs to be processed, including the doctor’s specific medical orders, or tests (including X-rays and other lab work) need to be fully reviewed before a patient sees the doctor. There is a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work being done on your loved one’s behalf, so keep this in mind when you are waiting to see the doctor or to receive a medical test and/or treatment. Furthermore, some hospitals and physicians are very busy and see as many patients as possible in a given day.

This is good because more people can be examined and treated by the doctor, but it also can mean longer waits if things get backed up or emergencies occur. Finding productive ways to pass the time can be good as these activities lower stress levels. Bring a good book, magazine(s), CDs/tapes, a simple game (playing cards) or crafts (such as knitting or crocheting), along with snacks and water for both you and the patient. You also may consider bringing a sweater/jacket (for cold offices) and/or a small pillow (for hard seats or to support the lower back). We have known caregivers to bring work from their offices to feel productive or review personal research they have done about cancer treatments or coping with cancer.

Despite the distractions, keep in mind that you are there to provide reassurance and support to your loved one. You may want to use the waiting time to talk to one another about what questions to ask the doctor, or about how each other is feeling, both physically (for the patient) and emotionally (for both of you). If you are comfortable, start a conversation with another patient and/or caregiver. Some family members have met fellow caregivers for other patients in the waiting areas. Speaking with others can be helpful in gathering useful information. It also helps you realize that others are facing similar experiences.If you are waiting a long time and/or your loved one is feeling unwell, let the nurse or receptionist know, especially if the patient is experiencing increased pain, fever, nausea, or sudden onset of other physical symptoms.