When I first went on leave from work, I was bored. I have very few hobbies, and I’m known for hating most every TV show and movie in the universe. And yes, for those wondering, this includes Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, and almost every Marvel movie. My dear friends, detecting my plight, started suggesting hobbies and other activities to keep me “entertained” during the day, like cross stitching or making tie-dye t-shirts. Then I started getting headaches. And now I’m investing a lot of time in a very addicting hobby: talking with the neurology office folks on the phone. We’ve really hit it off, and I’m thoroughly entertained by the complexities of the system in which I’m ensnared. Even the best of hobbies cannot compare!
For example, here are the highlights from my most recent conversation with a neurology office. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (everyone is innocent, except for the medical system that is out to get us all). Italics were added later, to maximize your understanding of the situation.
Neurology Admin #1: Hi Natalie, I’m calling you back in regard to you wanting to make an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert.
Me: Oh, excellent!
Neurology Admin #1: Are you a new patient with us?
Me: No, I’ve been in twice already. Plus something like a million neurology consults in the hospital. I’ve met the entire neurology department by now. Except for Doctor Headache-Expert, oddly enough.
Neurology Admin #1: Then I’m sorry to say that you can’t make an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert. You are not allowed to switch to a different neurologist if you’re already seeing one at our office.
Me: But the neurologist I saw last week at the ER recommended I get an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert right away, because the Headache Clinic doesn’t have openings until the end of January. Otherwise I’d definitely be at the Headache Clinic right now, not talking with you about neurologists.
(At this point, Neurology Admin #1 pulls up my chart.)
Neurology Admin #1: You’ve already seen Doctor Neurologist #1 and Doctor Neurologist #2. You’re not allowed to switch to Doctor Headache-Expert. This is not a choose your own adventure game, you entitled millennial.
Me: This is not what I was told by the neurologist in the ER. Who can I ask about switching to Doctor Headache-Expert? And can anyone tell me why I didn’t see Doctor Headache-Expert to begin with? Or why I was allowed to switch neurologists before? Or why I get a funny feeling that I’ll leave this conversation with more questions than answers?
Neurology Admin #1: Let me ask. I’ll call you back.
Me: When will you call me back?
Neurology Admin #1: I’m not sure. Bye.
Me: Err, ok bye.
(We hang up. I delay all calls to other doctors and government offices in order to keep my phone completely unencumbered.)
Act Two, 10 minutes later
Neurology Admin #2: Hi Natalie, I’m calling about you wanting an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert.
Me: Yes. The neurologist I saw last week at the ER recommended I get an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert right away, because the Headache Clinic doesn’t have openings until the end of January. Deja vu.
Neurology Admin #2: Well, you unfortunately can’t schedule an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert. You’re already seeing Doctor Neurologist #2 in February. But you can see Doctor Neurologist #2 sooner, if you prefer. I’ll throw you a bone, because I know you’re going to keep calling until you get something.
Me: Ummm ok. Sure. Or you could get me an earlier appointment at the Headache Clinic.
Me: But does Doctor Headache-Expert have any openings? Because I can get another referral or something if needed. I will figure out how to beat this system.
Neurology Admin #2: Doctor Headache-Expert is pretty busy. So you might as well just see a provider in the Headache Clinic in January.
Me: That is nearly three months away. Does anyone understand how long that is to someone who has a headache all day, every day?
Neurology Admin #2: (silence)
Me: Ok, you’re scaring me a little. Please, who can I ask about seeing Doctor Headache-Expert? Can anyone authorize the switch? I thought this person was you, but apparently not.
Neurology Admin #2: I can have a nurse call you, she may be able to deem it medically necessary.
Me: Victory! Ok, thank you.
Act Three, 20 seconds later
Neurology Nurse: Hi Natalie, I’m calling about you wanting an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert.
Me: Yes! The neurologist I saw last week at the ER recommended I get an appointment with Doctor Headache-Expert right away, because the Headache Clinic doesn’t have openings until the end of January. This entire blog post is starting to feel like copy-paste.
Neurology Nurse: He wasn’t allowed to tell you that. A neurologist can’t authorize you switching neurologists just because you were in the ER. Obviously.
Me: A neurologist does not have the power to send me to a different neurologist?? Nurses really do have all of the power. And I’m talking to a nurse right now. That’s it, I’d better start begging.
Please, what can you do to help me? Please, please, are there any other headache experts at the neurology office who I am allowed to see?
Neurology Nurse: No, all the other headache experts work out of the Headache Clinic. Hence the name, “Headache Clinic.”
Me: Please, will you let me see Doctor Headache-Expert at least once? I just want to talk to someone before January. Otherwise I wouldn’t be on the phone with you, truly.
Neurology Nurse: Doctor Headache-Expert only works four hours per week out of this office. So, she is booked through March. Give up now, there is no hope for you.
Me: And what does she do with the other 36 hours? Work out of the Headache Clinic?
Neurology Nurse: No, she does research.
Me: Research?! So she only sees like….4 patients per week? That’s it? This explains a lot, and I wonder why no one mentioned this earlier.
Neurology Nurse: Yes, that’s correct.
Me: I guess I should give up soon. Can I have an appointment in March, just in case there is a cancellation?
Neurology Nurse: No, you cannot.
Me: Like now. Oh. Ok.
The score, as of today:
Neurology: All of the points!