Age of Entitlement

Flu season is upon us, and everyone is rushing – or avoiding – to get their flu shot. It also means it’s one of the fun times of the year when more people tend to come down with illness. Don’t worry, this is not a push to have everyone vaccinated against the flu. (Though if you’re pregnant, over 65, or have a chronic illness, you should!)

My rant today involves general demands and expectations from people and their families towards health care providers.

The case example is about a pleasant elderly woman that is in generally good health, and normally only comes in for routine checks every few months. One day she became ill, with a cold. Her daughter called to make an appointment, but was informed that the physician did not have clinic hours that morning, and was offered an appointment that afternoon. The offer was declined, but a request (read, demand) was made to have a pre-booked appointment the following morning. The clinic in question worked on the advanced-access system, so the daughter was asked to call back the next morning, and was advised a time of when to call early, in order to ensure the time she desired. She did not call at that time. She actually called nearly an hour after that time, and requested a specific time for an appointment that morning. By then, other patients had already scheduled a consultation and the daughter’s preferred time slot had already been filled. She was offered a later slot that same morning, but she declined, citing she “didn’t have time” to take her mother in, and proceeded to yell and berate the poor receptionist.

Obviously, there is more detail to the story, and surely from the other end as well, but the point is made. Once again, health care appears to have a “drive-thru” expectation. While this isn’t the Emergency Department setting, prudence still needs to be applied; why couldn’t, or didn’t, the daughter take her mother to the after hours clinic? Or if she was truly concerned that her mother’s illness was the emergency she believed it to be, why wasn’t a visit made to the ER? The daughter denied her mother care because it wasn’t convenient for her, and berated the health care provider’s office and staff for not being flexible enough. While the frustration is understandable – people tend to express fear as anger, even towards others, this is an obvious double standard: if you’re that concerned about someone’s health, it should have been dealt with sooner, not just when it was convenient. In true health concerns, missing work, or a vacation, or a pre-scheduled event, would never be questioned.

Now that the long-winded story is out of the way, that brings up the point of expectations from the public. Transcending clinics/offices, and Emergency Departments, even specialist’s offices no doubt, there is an overwhelming haze of entitlement from patients believing that they’re the only patient that matters, and society as a whole is less important than what’s happening to me, right now. A parallel example of this is what’s developed from the vaccine-refuser following, but we went over that last time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that many individuals have such interest in their own health. It’s what we hope for many others to have, such as those that leave things until they’re on death’s door before finally going to a doctor, only to find out that it’s too late to do anything about it. I’m talking about the people that get angry, when a doctor rushes out to an emergency, or fits in a sick young child ahead of you. Back in the day, especially in the smaller communities, these “interruptions” were simply inconveniences, but accepted, and you were just thankful that it wasn’t you that was in that sickly of a state. Not so much anymore. We see this often in the ER waiting rooms, when people often forget that the triage system in place is not first-come-first-served, but rather the sicker patients are seen before those who are less sick. Or not sick.

I think the binding point is this: when you’re with the doctor, you ARE the most important patient that’s in front of the doctor. But when the doctor is not in front of you, remind yourself that there are other patients being seen. The doctor is not out golfing, or staring at themselves in the mirror thinking how much of a god they are. (We’ll save that discussion for another time).

Our country is only as great as the people within it, and our society is risking losing the qualities that got us to where we currently are. The world is a smaller and faster place nowadays, but that is not an excuse to forget human decency. Maybe that’s too harsh. We rely on others whether we care to admit it or not. Patients rely on their doctor. Doctors are nothing without patients. However, we are destined to devolve if we return to a me-only mentality, not just in healthcare, but in all aspects of society.

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