Are you unhelpful and patronising?
Do you revel in the discomfort of others?
Do you harbour a barely disguised assertion that you are better than the rest of humanity (who you mentally refer to as “scum”)?
Would you like to describe yourself as a ‘healthcare professional’ despite barely scraping a D in biology at school?
If the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes”, then you might be in the wrong job! (Unless you’re already a GP’s receptionist, in which case… well, it figures)
As a bloody man, it’s hard enough to admit defeat regarding your valiant battle with an ailment or illness without then having to call your local primary care establishment to engage with one of Satan’s minions on Earth.
Normally I’m quite happy to verbally spar with an irritant over the phone – telemarketers, cold callers, my mother – but I’m weak and vulnerable; I don’t have the strength to defend myself against the barrage of condescension that’s about to come through the receiver and box me about the ears.
All I’m doing is trying to make an appointment to see my local doctor. A perfectly valid course of action, you would think, when seeking treatment or advice for a medical complaint. But if the tone and inflection coming from the sour battle-axe who’s just picked up the phone is any indication, I’m a very foolish person worthy of utter contempt. Throughout the course of our conversation she sighs so many times I fear she may be deflating.
Firstly, I’ve had the audacity to call on a very busy day and at a very busy time. The receptionist doesn’t so much tell me this as chastise me for it, as if I’ve very stupidly mistimed my illness. But this irritation quickly morphs into incredulity when I suggest I might want to see my preferred choice of doctor. As a kind, competent, and understanding physician, I understand he may be popular, but I’m not sure my request for 15 minutes with him warrants a supressed fit of hysterics.
“Oh no, he’s booked up all day,” she snorts when finally regaining composure.
“Er, OK. How about tomorrow?”
“No, no, no, no, no.”
“Well, could you tell me when he is free, please?”
A brief pause containing a few keyboard taps and more sighing.
“Two and a half weeks,” she finally offers.
Now in my experience an illness will either resolve itself within 2 and a half weeks, or kill you. Either way, an appointment with a doctor is somewhat moot, and so I accept the offer of seeing the unknown locum with the unpronounceable name. And then comes the kicker:
“Can I ask what the problem is?”
No you fucking can’t! It’s going to take every ounce of my being to have a conversation about the weeping sore at the end of my penis to the doctor; I’m not going to share such intimate detail with you! And why are you asking anyway? Will you bump me up to an earlier appointment if my symptoms sound alarming enough to your untrained ears?! I once vaguely described some symptoms over the phone only to have some medical advice thrown back at me together with the suggestion that I probably didn’t need to see a doctor at all! From a phone operator cum administrative assistant!!
The worst possible situation in which to find yourself is when after having had an appointment, the friendly, caring, understanding doctor suggests you do something that goes against the receptionist’s protocol. Maybe they’ve suggested you make another appointment with them at a particular time or, heaven forbid, call them tomorrow for an update.
“I beg your pardon??!”
“Er, Doctor Marsh said I should call to discuss my illness.”
“She told you that?!”
“I don’t think she would have. Do you want to make an appointment for next week?”
“No, she said to call today, at this time, to chat with her.”
“She probably meant that you should make another appointment.”
“No, she specifically said to call her…”
“No no no no no. She’s got appointments all day. I’ve got nothing in her diary.”
“Right, well could you put me through to her and I’ll…”
“No I can’t put you through! I can’t put every person that calls through to a doctor!”
“OK, sure, but she asked me quite clearly to call at this time on this day. Could you please check with her? Please?”
A long, long sigh, a brief moment on hold, and then a curt and defiant; “Putting you through.”
No apology, no conciliatory explanation, just probably an asterisk next to my name on the computer so she knows to be doubly vile to me the next time I cross her path.
I’ve no idea what has happened in their lives to warrant an almost sociopathic approach to their rather basic duties, but you’d think the doctors at the practice would weed out the self-satisfied snobs during the interview process. They are, after all, the conduit through which the sick and frail attempt to contact their local healers. Having a poisonous bitch man their phones seems unduly cruel.