A Face to Face Encounter with Advocacy

ConfrontIt takes courage to decide you are going to advocate for yourself.  It takes greater courage to actually do it.  It takes even greater courage to confront someone in person, face-to-face about an issue you promised yourself you would stand up for.  That happened to me this week.

I was due for my annual checkup with my regular doctor, but he wasn’t available until well into May.  The receptionist kindly offered to schedule me with the nurse practitioner who works with my regular doctor.  Since it was a well visit I figured that would be fine.

I showed up at my appointment this week, and to my surprise I had accidentally scheduled my appointment with the same nurse practitioner that had infuriated me at my daughter’s visit to the urgent clinic back in January (you can read about my nightmare visit).  I was caught completely off guard.  I think the me of five years ago wouldn’t have said anything, and would have gone on with the visit like nothing was wrong. I’m not that person any more.  I know I need to stick up for myself when it comes to my health and medical decisions.

Yes, I had been hiding behind the curtain of silence for over 3 months while the unpaid bill sat on my kitchen counter.  The past due notices kept coming as gentle reminders that I should act.  I had debated calling the medical billing office, calling my doctor, or calling to see if there was some kind of manager over the clinic.  But I hadn’t done any of those things.  I’d remained silent, which isn’t bold or courageous or advocating for myself at all.  The bill was about to go to collections, so I knew I would be forced to make a decision one way or another soon.

Soon came sooner than I expected.  There I was face-to-face with the exact nurse practitioner I had promised myself I would never allow to treat me or my family again.  I started with, “Well, this is a bit awkward.”  “What?” she asked.  I repeated myself, “This is a bit awkward.  I met you at the urgent clinic a few months ago, and I didn’t have a good experience.  Maybe it’s better for me to reschedule this appointment with someone else.”

The nurse practitioner’s name was Carla.  I told Carla I hadn’t realized I’d scheduled the appointment with her.  I hadn’t known her name because her name tag had been covered up during our appointment at the clinic.  I pointed out that her name tag was covered up at the current visit too.

Naturally she was quite taken aback.  She was very gracious and didn’t try to get away from me as fast as she could (I wanted to get away from her, so I assumed she would want the same of me!).  Carla calmly asked me for a few details about my clinic visit, and explained to me that she doesn’t have these kinds of problems with her patients.  She was very concerned.  I could tell her reputation was very important to her.  I went through the details of how I had to wait, how the test felt unnecessary, and how frustrating it was to have a test thrust upon my daughter when we had no idea why she was having it.

Carla immediately offered to take care of the bill from that day.  She instantly gained some of my respect back – she showed me she cared and wanted to make this right.  Then she explained that the clinic can be very busy, especially when people come in with complicated cases that don’t belong in the clinic (such as the guy ahead of me who’d just had surgery and had a litany of problems): they take up too much time, and people have to wait.

I told Carla it wasn’t just the wait.  Most of my frustration was because I felt the strep test was completely unnecessary, and we didn’t receive proper information about why Carla thought it was necessary.  Carla re-read my daughter’s chart, then explained that the pink eye was viral (based upon symptoms), and sometimes that is an indicator or risk factor for strep.  She was being prudent by checking that possibility before we left the clinic.  She made me realize that we had a giant case of miscommunication more than anything else.

After we’d talked things through for a few minutes Carla offered for me to reschedule the appointment, but said she would really like the opportunity to continue my well checkup.  She handled herself so well, took responsibility for what happened, was adamant she would take care of the bill from the strep test, and offered me reasonable explanations for her actions and decisions – what more could I ask of her?  I continued my well checkup with Carla, and she was extremely thorough, caring, and competent.  I’m so glad we had the opportunity to talk this through, and my opinion of her has changed 180 degrees.  My accidental scheduling turned out to be a great opportunity to repair a relationship.

Photo credit

Have you been forced to confront an issue you’d previously been avoiding?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment.

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