The Worst Patient Encounter Ever

I glanced at the day's schedule of patients and groaned. In fact, only the looming tuition bills of my two kids in college kept me from turning around and storming out of the office. I was sick---sick of Willie Brown, the most maddening patient in my practice, that is.  Always late or no-showing for appointments, non-compliant with his medications, rude and demanding to my staff,  I threatened to dismiss him from my practice every December as a Christmas gift to myself. Sure enough, Willie Brown dragged in forty minutes late, but then cussed my receptionist out after waiting a mere fifteen minutes. Once back in an exam room, he flopped a folder crammed with information about new herbal treatments he'd read about on line that worked more "natural-like" than the blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medicines I'd prescribed.

I'm not against natural or "holistic" treatments, if they work, but Willie had yet again forked out sixty dollars for some all-natural, "miracle" herb, supposedly out of India, that hadn't lowered his blood pressure any better than a fist full of crab grass.  Willie then pitched a hissy-fit that the medication I had prescribed, which had a proven track record with large, double-blinded studies and FDA testing for safety, cost twenty-five dollars! "Those drug companies are nothing but a pack of %&$ robbers! Thieves, all of them."

I pointed out the herbal company had no doubt laughed their way to the bank after Willie coughed up sixty bucks for a supposed blood pressure medication that hadn't lowered his blood pressure one iota.

Willie's hands fisted. "That's because that &%*$ receptionist of yours got all snippy with me just because I didn't have my office visit co-pay. She's nothing but a greedy %itch." Index finger in my face, he added, "She's the reason my pressure's up. You ought to fire that uppity broad."

I ought to fire you, Willie, I thought, but with his hands fisted only two feet from my nose, I kept my mouth shut.

He then went off on a tirade about greedy doctors always wanting money for office co-pays. Willie NEVER paid his co-pay, and now owed me over one hundred dollars in unpaid office co-pays.  Most doctors would have refused to see him at all when he crawled in forty minutes late without his co-pay. Triggered by his unfair attack, I pointed out, "Perhaps if you didn't waste your money on cigarettes, beer, and useless herbs, you could afford your ten-dollar co-pay."

That went over big. His face turned crimson, and I thought a knuckle sandwich was on the lunch menu. "Dr. Burbank, in the fifty years I've been alive, you are the WORST doctor I've ever had."

Gee, thanks! I shouldn't have said it, but I couldn't help myself. "Willie, out of the ten thousand patients I've doctored over the last twenty-five years, you rank dead last. If you think I'm such a rotten doctor, find yourself someone else!"

I stormed out of the exam room, no doubt needing a hypertension medicine myself.

I had never, in twenty-five years, lost my temper with a patient or let them get under my skin. I shook my head, still in shock.  Horrible. Unprofessional. Uncalled for.  But truthfully? I was delighted to be rid of him. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I'm free. I'm free. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"