An annoying patient... how should I respond?


I received an email from a patient over labor day weekend. It read, “It is totally my fault for not scheduling sooner, but my son needs a sports physical so he can participate in workouts this week. I don't want to take him out of class, so I would like an appointment after 3:15.”

My initial response was. “Seriously?”

The schedule was already packed. I only had 3 afternoon appointments left for the short week, which would certainly quickly fill with patients who had unexpected needs such as illness or injury.

I issued a prompt denial via email saying I did not have any openings, defending my stance by reasoning, “It's her fault, she failed to plan!”

That, to me, was the issue. She made the mistake, and now she was asking my office staff and I to bail her out. I was miffed, and I replied to her message saying we did not have any afternoon appointments available. I marinated in my miffed-ness for a few hours, and then realized that my schedule really was a mess. I looked again at the schedule for the week and saw that I needed to add appointments. I did not have enough openings to meet the normal demands of a short post-holiday week. I told the staff I would give up my Wednesday morning off. Since I then had 10 extra slots for the week I had my receptionist call her and offer one of the openings Wednesday morning, or an afternoon opening the following week. It wasn't what she wanted, but it was really the best I could do.

What I didn't do that I would have done 5 years ago is give her a lecture on how unreasonable she was! (not that the thought didn't cross my mind!).

While my initial thoughts were more annoyed than gracious, I hope my ultimate response was appropriate and reflective of how I would want to be treated in a similar circumstance. Isn't this what the Golden Rule is about? Treating others as we would want to be treated? Grace is difficult, and does not come easily to me even in small matters, but I am learning!