I also worked the ob-gyn side [at an HMO]. Other than my own two pregnancies and deliveries, I had no OB experience. “This schedule is an outrage, an insult!” I protested to gray-haired Dr. Bender one busy evening.
“What do you mean?” He spoke in his grandfatherly gentle tone.
“We schedule ob-gyn patients every fifteen minutes. That is not enough time to take a history, take vitals, and do a pap smear. We need time to listen to these women. They shouldn’t have to be herded through here like cattle.”
“Guess you wouldn’t want to work in my other office. We schedule two patients every fifteen minutes.” He chuckled.
“Two? How on earth do you do that?”
“It can be done. You’re being unrealistic. Someone has to pay for running the office. Who do you think pays for rent, heat, water, electricity, and telephones? For supplies, equipment, and salaries?”
“That doesn’t justify shortchanging patients. They moved near here because we’re close to a commuter train to Chicago. Their husbands are gone long days to work. Many of the women are anxious and depressed getting settled in their new neighborhoods. They need time to tell us their stories. They need to be seen as whole people, not only as Valium prescriptions.”
Often, the women had been given Valium prescriptions when they’d seen internal medicine doctors first. I certainly could identify with their unrest and knew they needed a listening ear.
“Lois, you don’t belong here.” He spoke kindly, eyes twinkling as if he were encouraging a daughter. “You don’t fit the mold. I can tell you’ll be doing other things in your life. Something bigger and better. You wouldn’t be content staying here.”
You’re right, I thought. I didn’t fit the happy housewife mold, and now I’m not fitting this workplace mold. It appears he’s settled for how the system works, but I can’t and I won’t. There has to be a better way. I started by rewriting the clinic’s ob-gyn patient history form….