We arrived at the doctor’s office nearly a half an hour early so that, maybe, this time we could get in and out in a reasonable amount of time. One would think that a pediatrician’s office would be mindful of time and children’s tendency to have a short attention span. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that at Sacred Heart’s pediatric care clinic this isn’t the case.
In the lobby, rows of chairs looked sad and uninviting. The muted paint colors and floor tiles told a depressing story that was amplified and, at once dulled, by the hum of fluorescent lighting. Against the wall stood an aquarium; sparsely stocked with tropical fish. A television mounted on the wall in the corner adjacent to the aquarium quietly told the story of some animated children. No one was watching.
As we sat in the lobby I filled out paperwork. There was a questionnaire that would have been quite useful had the necessary tools been available to accurately respond. This questionnaire asked things about my child’s ability to stack blocks and complete puzzles but there were no blocks or puzzles available. So, I answered to the best of my ability based on similar activities done at home but I had never asked my son to stack blocks. I returned the paperwork to the attendant at the counter and we waited to be called back.
Soon someone was at the door calling the names of several children in a monotone. Before I could gather our things to follow her she was gone. I took my son through the door and we went down the only hallway, assuming that was where we should go. As we walked I overheard a man speaking to a nurse about his child. “We were just here a couple of days ago” he said “I don’t want to wait two hours again just to find out about this.” I wasn’t sure what “this” was but I knew that the man had an unpleasant experience on his previous trip to this facility. “I know what you mean” I thought to myself.
When we found the nurse she directed us to examination room 15 with a voice that said she’d had a long day and a hand gesture that demanded attention but received a look of disapproval from me.
Examination room 15 was a near carbon copy of all of the other rooms that we had been in during past visits. It was cold. The floor tiles were red, blue, green and yellow; arranged sporadically. The yellow paint on the walls was dull and more like what one would expect to see in a public school or some other institutional setting. There were remnants of writing, well scribbles, on the wall. Outside the window a grounds keeping crew labored in the sun. To the left was a long countertop covered in simulated wood laminate. It continued along the back wall where a sink was mounted. The cabinets were shut and protected by child locks that had obviously been tested by numerous children. To the right was a large garbage can that was hiding an outlet in the wall. There were no child safety covers inserted in the receptacles. Above the door was a cross that seemed to have been crafted by a child. It was a reminder of the “friendly”, “giving” and “charitable” nature of this Catholic clinic.
Fortunately, I was able to use my iPhone to stream music and entertaining videos to keep my little guy occupied while we waited. The novelty of the 3 inch screen soon wore off. We played games with our imaginations, counted floor tiles and named colors.
A nurse came in, after about an hour, to get my son’s vital signs and weight. There were no gowns in the room and she muttered something about laundry and restocking before leaving the room to find a suitably fitting gown for my little, cold man. By the time she returned with the gown I had taken my son’s clothes off and we were ready to get started. Actually, we were ready to get started over an hour before but this was the reality of the situation so we were inclined to go along, smiling, in the hopes that the visit would soon be over. I knew as soon as I showed any sign of distaste for the course of the visit my son’s agitation would begin to increase at an exponential rate.
We went back down the hallway to a room near the door we had come through so long ago. I was afraid that my son would think that we were finally leaving and become irritated but this didn’t happen. After taking his weight and length measurements we returned to examination room 15 to wait some more.
As we waited I continued to watch the big hand on the clock run its marathon and lap the small hand again. The doctor finally came in. She was pleasant in tone although she made several references regarding the length of the day and her readiness to leave. I couldn’t stop my mind from creating several witty retorts to her comments. Fortunately, I was able to keep my mouth from repeating them. She looked over the questionnaire that I had filled out before. The information from this document provided the clinic with measurements of my son’s mental progression. His vocabulary consists of well over a hundred words and he’s creating sentences at just over a year and a half but because of the lack of materials available in the waiting room to accurately fill in the questionnaire the chart seemed to show my son behind the learning curve. Based on this I’d assume that most children of honest parents who visit the Sacred Heart pediatric clinic are evaluated to be mentally challenged. The thought was a shameful disappointment.
The doctor continued her evaluation of his health, all the while maintaining her pleasant tone and demeanor. This was a well-child check up. We merely needed to have his measurements and temperature taken and to be told which immunization shots he would need to get at the health department. After her evaluation the doctor left the room to fill out the necessary paperwork for us to take to the health department. When she returned she went over the protocol and let me know that we would have to wait a few months until the little guy would be able to have his next round of immunization shots because not enough time had passed since his last shots. A 6 month window is required. I had to point out to the doctor that his last shots had been in 2009, not 2010 and he was well past the 6 month curtain of safety. She realized her mistake and again left examination room 15 to gather a bit more paperwork. She would only be a few minutes. Nearly twenty minutes later, and after several loud, disgruntled blurts from my tired and thirsty son, she returned with our discharge papers. The clinic was now closed and my car was the only one remaining in the once crowded parking lot.
There was such an overwhelming mixture of verbal and nonverbal health communication during this visit; very little of which was positive in nature. Perhaps there are regulations put upon the doctors which require that a certain number of patients be seen within a prescribed time limit. Based on our time spent waiting I’d be inclined to assume that, whatever the case, a great deal of reorganization and reconsideration of policy would be in order.