Having a Medical Test Thrust Upon You

Several months ago I took my daughter Nicole to the after-hours clinic at my local doctor’s office for suspected pink eye.  We were one of the last patients to be seen that day – there were 2 others behind us when they closed the doors and posted the “clinic full” sign.  Patients had been cycling through the clinic as we waited: they would disappear through the door to the clinic rooms and reappear no more than 15 minutes later.  A patient ahead of us was clearly in bad shape.  He’d just had surgery, was hobbling around with a cane, had a grossly swollen leg, and said the main reason he was there was because he’d had a severe sore throat for almost a week.

We were shown to a room where the technician took vitals, recorded Nicole’s symptoms, and told us the nurse practitioner would be with us shortly.  With only one person ahead of us I expected to be seen within 10-15 minutes.  For 45 minutes we sat in the room and listened to the muted sounds of the conversation in the next room – it was clearly between the nurse practitioner and the patient ahead of us.  As time ticked by I became increasingly more frustrated.  We waited over an hour before I asked the technician when we might expect to see the nurse practitioner.  We were told it should be any minute.  We heard the nurse practitioner come out of the room next door, move to the technician station, then moments later walk back into the room next door.  While the door was still open she announced, “You have strep.  It’s going around.”  The door closed, and the muted conversations continued.

An hour and 15 minutes after we were shown to the room, the nurse practitioner finally came to see Nicole.  She was clearly rushed.  She didn’t introduce herself, her hair covered her name tag so I didn’t know her name, and she didn’t extend more of a greeting than a rushed, “Hi”.  She began typing symptoms into her laptop, but clearly wasn’t listening.  She heard the part about possible pink eye, seemed to immediately dismiss it, then asked a series of questions about sore throats and coughs and fevers.

Nicole had experienced a sore throat, cough, and fever the week before, but all of those symptoms were gone.  The nurse practitioner totally missed the part about the symptoms being gone, and kept asking questions and conversing as if the symptoms were still present.  For example, after we had explained that all of the symptoms were now gone she asked, “How long have you had the sore throat?”  Nicole would say, “I had it for a few days but that was last week”.  On to the next symptom we would go, with the same present-tense question.  I already sensed she was pushing towards strep, which was agitating because I knew she had just seen a guy with strep and that was probably significantly swaying her diagnosis.

After a brief examination the nurse practitioner announced that strep throat was going around and that Nicole needed to be tested.  What???  We came here for pink eye.  How did we end up needing a strep test?  I tried to ask questions but the nurse basically talked over me as she was leaving the room to tell the technician to prepare a strep test.  Minutes later she returned and before I could even interrupt to ask why the test was being done Nicole had a long q-tip looking swab being thrust towards the back of her throat.

FrustratedI was furious.  It is such a violating feeling to be powerless over what is happening to you.  We were completely at the mercy of the nurse practitioner and she was doing whatever she wanted without any explanation or reasoning.  While the test was being processed I was left in the room with Nicole to stew and steam and froth about it.  I became increasingly more agitated and frustrated, so that by the time the nurse practitioner came back to tell us the strep test was negative (let’s just say I wasn’t surprised) I could barely contain myself.  I wanted to scream at her, “OF COURSE IT’S NOT!!!! SHE HAS NO SYMPTOMS AND YOU DIDN’T LISTEN!!!!”  But shouting at people is not the way I like to operate – it tends to have negative returns.

The nurse told us the eye problem was probably viral and didn’t require any treatment – it would heal on its own.  There was nothing further she could do for us, and the appointment was over.  I was fuming that we wasted almost 2 hours on a minor issue that should have taken 15 minutes and no strep test.  I believe the nurse interpreted my frustration as anger that I didn’t receive any medication for the $80+ I was about to pay for the visit.  I was far too angry in the moment to have a rational conversation about what had just happened, or to explain that I’m thrilled when my child doesn’t need antibiotics or other medication.  So we left.  On the way out I paid for the visit, but refused to pay the $48 for the strep test.  The receptionist informed me I would be billed for it, and I told her I had no intention of paying it.

As the hours, then days, went by after that appointment I pondered what to do.  Do I call and talk to the medical office?  Do I call billing and tell them I’m refusing to pay and why?  Do I call my regular doctor and tell him what happened?  Do I just not pay it and let it go to collections?

Photo credit

What would you do?  Please leave a comment.

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