A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter?

The receptionist interrupted me in the middle of my dictation.

“There’s a woman and her husband at the front desk. She’s already been seen by Dr. Kim for chest pain, but refuses to leave and her husband seems really agitated. They’re demanding to speak with you.”

I didn’t take the time to look up the woman’s chart. This could be a medical emergency, I figured. Something may have developed in just the last few minutes.

I hurried down the hall and unlocked the door to the lobby. I had already noticed the man and the woman standing at the glassed-in reception desk.

“I’m Dr. Duvefelt, can I help you?” I began, one hand on the still partway open door behind me.

The husband did the talking.

“My wife just saw Dr. Kim for chest pain and he thought it was nothing. He didn’t have any of her old records, so how could he know?”

While I quickly considered my response, knowing that Dr. Kim is a very thorough and conscientious physician, the man continued:

“Can we get out of here, and step inside for some privacy?”

My mind raced. This was either a medical emergency or an unhappy customer situation. We had the door locks installed not long ago on the advice of the police and many other sources of guidance for clinics like ours. It was a decision made by our Board of Directors. In this age of school, workplace and church shootings, everyone is preparing for such scenarios. We are always reminded not to bring people inside the “secure” areas of our clinics who don’t have an appointment or a true medical emergency.

I figured I had to find out more about this woman’s chest pain in order to make my decision whether to let her inside again; after all, she had just been evaluated.

“Ma’am, are you having chest pain right now?” I asked.

“A little”, she answered.

“How long have you had it?” I probed.

“A couple of years now.”

“And you just saw Dr. Kim?”

“Yes, and he said my EKG looked okay, but he didn’t bother to ask me about you heart valve operation three years ago in, Boston. He just said ’we’ll get those records’, and he told me I was okay today.”

The husband broke in, “It’s the same everywhere we go, everybody just says it’s not a heart attack, but we need more answers than that. we know what it isn’t, but we need to know what it is!” He added, again, “can’t we go inside for some privacy?”

“Have you been seen elsewhere for the same thing?” I said without answering the request.

“Yes, at the emergency room in Concord, New Hampshire when we lived there…”

“Did Dr. Kim have you sign a records release form so we can get the records from Boston and New Hampshire?” I asked.

“Yes”, the woman answered.

“Then that’s all we can do today,” I said. “I hear you telling me this is an ongoing problem, you’ve already been assessed today and Dr. Kim told you that you’re safe today and we’ve requested your old records. That’s what needs to happen.”

“You mean you’re not going to help us today?”

“You’ve seen Dr.Kim, your records will get here, I don’t know what more we can do for you today.”

“You’ll hear about this”, the husband said as they stormed out. Another man in the lobby introduced himself to them and said “I’ll be your witness.”

I closed the self-locking door and wished I had somehow been more skilled and more diplomatic, and I wished the world wasn’t the way it has become in just a few years, with more concern for bolted doors, gun violence and mass shootings than simple customer relations.

10 Responses to “A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter?”


  1. 1 Michelle July 19, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for your commitment despite the increasing challenges in our country these days.


  1. 1 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – Health Econ Bot Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 10:19 am
  2. 2 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? | Health Advice and more Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 10:23 am
  3. 3 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – BrighterLife Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 10:39 am
  4. 4 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – Site Title Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 10:45 am
  5. 5 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – Techno Hub Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 12:35 pm
  6. 6 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – Health News Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 1:04 pm
  7. 7 A Patient in the Lobby Refuses to Leave: Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – Health Benefits Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 1:05 pm
  8. 8 Medical Emergency, Unhappy Customer or Active Shooter? – The Health Care Blog - Trackback on July 16, 2019 at 8:31 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.

Top 25 Doctor Blogs Award

Doctor Blogs

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Mailbox

contact @ acountrydoctorwrites.com
Bookmark and Share
© A Country Doctor Writes, LLC 2008-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.