Open Letter to Gatekeeper Doctors

Note: Feel Free to print this out and hand it to your doctor the first time you meet and every time you step into the medical office:

Dear Doctor,

You are one of the busiest people I know. You are allotted 12 minutes to see me, review my file, diagnose my problem, and figure out a way to fix it. You day is hectic. You have many demands on your time, not all of them medical.

Yet I still believe you went to medical school to help people, not just to pay off your loans, although you’ve mentioned your loans twice and your desire to help people, not at all.

Photo: Dougww at

Photo: Dougww at

I’d like you to know something about me, too. You won’t find this in my file.

1. I have a job, my work provides my income. If I’m self-employed, there is no income while I’m waiting for you. If you are delayed, please phone me before I leave work. Waiting long past the appointed time costs me money.

2. Think of me as a whole person, not a malfunctioning machine. If my medical problem requires me to wear a brace, cast, have surgery or do anything that restricts my work, I’m going to think about that first and worry about it. When you ignore this concern or act as if it is not important, I think less of you.

3. If I don’t follow your orders, it’s generally not because I’m difficult. It’s more likely that it conflicts with getting my work done. It’s less likely that I am stupid or want to cause you problems. Please don’t assume I don’t care about my health. I’m balancing my income with your request.

4. My job provides the income that pays your bills. If I lose it because of a medical problem, it creates more problems. Part of your job is to help me solve problems, not create them. Telling me, for example, to let my child run around naked all day till his diaper rash heals is simply not possible.

5. My job may not be glamorous or make me a lot of money, but it is my job. It is not your place to denigrate it, or me. If I am a writer, artist, musician or consultant, asking me if that isn’t a fancy name for being unemployed will make it impossible for me to hear anything you say because I am hurt and angry.

6.  My spouse may have questions, too. If I am accompanied by my spouse because I cannot drive, my spouse is also losing time from work. If we are both self-employed, this tiny restriction–my not being able to drive–can cost us clients and reduce our income. If nothing else, please be respectful if my spouse has a question.  Do not assume either one of us is retired, or independently wealthy.

7. Part of your job is to file materials with my insurance. Promptly. When you don’t do your part, the insurance company cannot do theirs. I’d be happy to do the paperwork, but the insurance company insists you do it. If you don’t file my paperwork, nothing else happens, and I’m out of work longer. Losing clients. Getting deeper into debt.  Not able to pay your bills.

8. If I phone you to remind you, please do not have your office staff tell me I cannot speak to you unless I have an appointment. I’ve spoken to your staff three times in three days and still nothing has happened. I may be going out of town on a business trip, have appointments or obligations.

9. Please don’t assume my days are free at all times to accommodate your office staff and you. It’s not a sign of disrespect, I need to get back to work. And don’t have anyone tell me “I’m lucky I can goof off,” I’d rather be at work.

Thanks for your attention. You might want to have your poorly-trained, over-worked, snappish, rule-applying, frustrated, stressed-out office staff read this, too. It’s hard for me to help them when they hang up on me.

Your patient.

5 thoughts on “Open Letter to Gatekeeper Doctors

  1. Believe me, if I felt that I had to give this letter to any doctor, he/she would NEVER be my physician. I insist on communication and thoroughness. I went through 4 primary internists before I found a great one in downtown Scottsdale area. Even my doctor gets overbooked at times but I have learned what times to make my appointments so I don’t have to wait long and I can be more understanding when it’s the exception, not the rule. I’ve been dealing with a recent medical issue and the specialists completely ignored me but my internist listened to me and my symptoms and decided to do something about it. I’m a new person because of his follow through.

    I have found the doctors here in Arizona to be much less understanding and not very caring. It’s a shame because I had incredible doctors in St. Louis.

    Good luck to you!

  2. Quinn,

    This is so ‘spot on’ as they say. Doctors I no longer go to should read this, I may send it to them. I have found a rare gem of a doctor that I’m hoping does not retire any time soon.

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