Sunday, May 15, 2022

What To Do While Waiting for the Doctor

The day before writing this, I had two unusual experiences in the office.  I am not referring to the patient whom I had not seen in years who gifted me yesterday with a full size New York style cheesecake.  I now must decide how I will apportion those 15,000 calories.  Perhaps, if I have 1 teaspoonful a day for a year that my BMI won’t be unduly affected. 

The newsworthy events had nothing do with my medical skills.  I did not nail down a rare diagnosis or provide a cure that evaded other practitioners.  In fact, the events that I will highlight below occurred prior to my entering the exam room.

When I enter an exam room to greet patients, they are generally engaged in the same activity – they are on their phones.  They are watching videos or playing games.  They are checking their e-mails.  They are pecking at the keyboard as they are issuing forth text messages of monumental importance. 

Where did this come from?  How did we find ourselves in a world where no spare moment can be wasted?  Why do we feel the need to be ever occupied?

Two individuals yesterday who didn’t get the tech memo were clear anachronisms.  One was reading an actual book, not a kindle or an electronic reader but an actual book, complete with printed pages and a book cover.  At first, I thought this may be a mirage as I haven’t seen such a tableau in some time.  Or, was I dreaming?  But I soon realized that the scene was real.  The second person was a family member who was immersed in a newspaper – not Apple news or beeping notifications bleating from a phone. I mean actual ink on newsprint. 

Two Relics from Days of Yore

To those who know of my own zealous devotion to the printed page, these two singular events impressed me deeply.  These were two people, three including me, who were not yet willing to brandish the white flag.

Some months ago, I greeted a patient who was transfixed on his phone when I entered the exam room.  I offered unsolicited non-medical advice.  I laid out a challenge for him.  The next time he is waiting for a doctor, I urged him to just sit quietly and leave his mind open. Yes, this was a bold and risky experiment.   He might be surprised and refreshed, I suggested, at what thoughts and ideas cross his mind.

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