This afternoon I am scheduled for my annual physical. I don’t really know how it happened. I normally only have my annual physical once every 5 to 10 years, yet my last one was just, well, one year ago. My doctor somehow tricked me into scheduling this four years early. I am going to have to let that sneaky bastard go. I will not inform him of my decision until after the exam, however. After all, it is not a good idea to piss off the guy who is about to check your prostate.

In preparation for this exam, of course, I had to visit a lab last week so that ample amounts of my blood and urine could be collected for analysis. My health insurer, United Healthcare, contracts with the company LabCorp, so I went to one of their local locations for this procedure.

I had been to this lab once before, when I had to get bloodwork done as a follow up to a change in my blood pressure medication. It is located at the back of a large complex, and while it appears to be a fairly significant office, it seems only one person actually works there. The same person that checks you in and verifies your insurance coverage is the same person who calls you back to collect whatever the doctor wants out of you. Even though I was taken care of fairly quickly on the last visit, I thought it best to schedule an appointment this time around. I was on a tight time schedule and did not want to get delayed by an inordinate amount of “walk ins”. I set my appointment for 8:00AM, before I had to leave for the airport for a flight to Atlanta.

It turns out that the appointment wasn’t really going to make much of a difference.

I arrived promptly at 8:00 on the morning of my appointment. There were about 7 people in the waiting area, and the greeter/receptionist/lab technician was checking in a man at the counter. She told me to “sign the sheet and have a seat”, while she gave him a urine collection cup and told him to go to the restroom, fill the cup and leave it in the cubby hole – a pass through to the lab area. It appears everyone was being served in the order they arrived, and little did I know that I wouldn’t get my cup until 8:40.

For 40 minutes, I watched this woman check in 2 or 3 people, then run back to the lab and call them one by one. When I finally got called to the desk around 8:40 to actually check in, I mentioned that she could probably use a little help that day. Her response was quick and direct, and spoke volumes about the employer-employee relationship in this particular situation. She said, “The shareholders don’t think we need any help.”

Silly shareholders. 

From that point the visit went fairly fast. I visited the restroom, and was called back to have my blood drawn. I learned many things while I was in that chair having my blood drained. I learned that this lab worker had just 10 days until vacation, and that she couldn’t wait to “not see Sarasota at all for ten days”. I learned that she lived in Hillsborough County (Tampa area), and had a one hour drive to work in the morning, and a two-hour commute home at night. I learned she was two years from retirement, and was moving to Tennessee, because she couldn’t wait to get out of the rotten state of Florida. I learned she hated Florida, where she has lived for all her 62 years. And I learned that while she had seen many changes here, not a single one of them was any good at all.

Now, I try to be polite to people and treat them with respect in all situations. I am not always successful in that effort. However, there are three situations where I think it is in my best interest to be unfailingly polite. That would be to persons who are A) handling my food, B) about to check my prostate, and C) pissed about their lives while holding a sharp needle and preparing to harpoon me for my blood.

Overall, the visit was not the worst medical experience I’ve ever had. What should have been a 15-minute appointment took almost an hour to complete. I’ve experienced worse delays. Still, dealing with the health care system is a frustrating experience, and when the employee serving you is miserable it makes it much, much worse. In this case, I cannot speak to the woman’s broader life issues, but I do identify with her workplace frustrations that day. That facility was certainly not staffed with the goal of fast and efficient service in mind.

The people we serve under the umbrella of workers’ compensation may often face similar dilemmas. They may be sent to the same lab, or their doctor doesn’t have the time necessary to spend with them. Their overworked adjustor may not be able to answer all (or any) of their questions. Many of the experiences along this journey will be unpleasant by their very nature; those experiences should not be compounded by the transference of personal problems from the people who are supposed to be helping them along that path.

It would be helpful if we could all remember that from time to time. Even if your job is simply drawing blood, the people on the other end of that needle have their own issues to contend with. We shouldn’t make it worse with our own personal problems. Even Dracula wouldn’t do that.

Then again, Dracula never had to deal with shareholders, or commute during rush hour on Interstate 75.

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