Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Patient Patient

No wonder they call them "patients". I accompany my patients to many appointments, whiling away the hours in myriad doctor's offices as we wait to be seen by some specialist or another. I make small talk with my patient, discuss our strategy for the visit, answer my pager, make calls, jot notes in my Palm Pilot, finish notes from previous patient encounters, and otherwise try to make use of this sudden "down time". Sometimes, my patient will nap in their waiting-room seat, and on a rare occasion, I too will succumb to Morpheus' mid-day visits, catching a brief snooze as the TV in the corner of the waiting room blares CNN and other patients and their family members desultorily leaf through magazines or stare into space.

Is their an etymological link between patience the virtue and the patients who wait in doctor waiting rooms around the world? Perhaps not, but I see the correlation on a daily basis, and I cultivate my own personal stores of this quite useful virtue, seeing it as an occupational hazard which can, in some ways, lend itself to learning Zen and the Art of Waiting in Medical Waiting Rooms.

For anyone who has ever waited for what seemed to be an inordinate time for the doctor to see you, I feel your pain. Are you frequently a patient? Then begin a meditation practice and use those hours for your own self-growth and exploration. Doctor's offices won't be changing any time soon, so we all must practice our patient patient skills, or continue to suffer in those exhaustingly banal waiting rooms which never offer enough comfort to alleviate the pain of unwillingly inhabiting them for extended periods.

Here's to patience, patients, and those who can gracefully combine the two.

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