Why a Doctor’s Appointment Can Feel More Like a Trip Down an Assembly Line

Susan Poole
6 min readOct 12, 2022

No wonder so many people avoid practicing routine health care.

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash

I’m sitting in the dermatologist’s office, staring at the back of a nurse’s head while she clicks away at a computer and talks to someone (not me) through a pair of earbuds. If she’s going to ignore me, I may as well do the same. So, I pull out my cell phone and start making notes for this piece.

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to that, I was the poster child for practicing preventative health care. I regularly scheduled annual exams with my primary care physician, my eye doctor, my dentist, and my dermatologist. I followed up on everything they told me to do, which of course included getting the screening mammogram that caught my cancer early and may have saved my life. I’m grateful that I have good health insurance and will never minimize the fact that I have access to superior health care. Too many people don’t.

But once I became a cancer patient, those other appointments got placed on the back burner. My calendar was suddenly chockful of visits to surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and lab techs. I could barely keep up with those while raising a family and trying to maintain my full-time job.

Now I’m back on track and it feels great. At the beginning of this year, I sat down one morning and scheduled all those “regular” appointments again. It took me almost nine months to see the dermatologist, but I wasn’t having any issues, just seeking a routine skin check, so I wasn’t in any hurry.

A lot has changed since my last appointment with her. First, I’ve earned a set of frequent flyer wings within my local health care system. I know my way around many of the hospitals and medical office buildings in the area and I’ve grown accustomed to the protocols they use when greeting patients. I’m not crazy about all the repetitive questions they ask, but I understand the rationale, so I tolerate it.

That’s why I didn’t mind when the nurse finally turned her attention to me and began slinging the usual questions. Although she didn’t actually turn around. She spoke the questions into her computer screen, and I answered into her backside while she pecked at the keyboard:

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Susan Poole

Mother, lawyer, nonprofit executive, breast cancer survivor, and aspiring author. Recently left her day-job to write about topics that she’s passionate about.