On Martin Luther King, Jr, birthday, I had a dentist appointment at 6:30 PM. The secretary called me earlier in the day to say that the dentist would take me at this time due to a pending snow storm on Tuesday. I took the opportunity to take this appointment on my day off and as my spouse would watch our son at this time. I arrive on time but the secretary told me that the dentist was running 15 minutes late. I said I don’t mind waiting as I can get comfortable reading the business magazines on a soft grey cushion chair. As I read each article, I kept looking at my watch every five minutes. It is 655 PM, dentist is still busy with another patient who said “Ouch” a few times as I hear the sound of the drill. I shrieked as I felt butterflies hitting my stomach muscles. I read another article and I noticed it is now 7 PM. I asked the secretary if the dentist will see me or not this evening. She said in a few minutes.
By this time, my right foot is tapping the floor as I inpatiently flip through each article. It is now 715 PM. I tap gently on the secretary’s window to tell her I am leaving and to reschedule. She does not answer me. I leave and I call her from my cell phone in my car. I tell her I left as I got very hungry and inpatient for waiting for 45 minutes to see the dentist. She said in a caring voice, “Well the dentist squeezed you in,” and I told you she would be 15 minutes late from the beginning. I felt my heart beat quicker and a cold sweat emanating from my forehead as I replied, “ I am a person and not a thing to squeeze into a hole.” The secretary was silent for the moment as I believe she did not think I would be candid with my response. She apologized and said “What time and date can you come this week?” She asked if Thursday morning was open for me. I told her I am available for an appointment at that time as I can take time off from work. She set up me for a 1030 AM appointment as she assumed that the client who was scheduled for that time would cancel as he has a history of cancelling his appointments with this dentist.
Thursday rolls around as I find out that this client cancelled his 1030 AM with this dentist. I had my work dental work done with complete satisfaction. However, I have a few questions for our profession in double booking clients:
1)Is it ethical to do since we are supposed to see a client for a 45 minute session? How would a therapist handle if both clients showed up? I know of one colleague who double booked his clients and billed the insurance companies for one hour sessions for both of them when in reality he only saw them for thirty minutes. Has anyone in this association ever double booked their clients? If you did, how did you handle it?
2)How did you feel when you were a client who got squeezed into a doctor’s appointment or with another provider? I felt terrible one time when my medical doctor told me that because “I was squeezed into an appointment with her, she could not finish answering my questions.” I felt like a slab of meat on an assembly line going through the motions on the conveyor belt. This doctor is no longer working at this facility.
3)What can we do to promote good customer service in our profession in handling our clients compassionately and with dignity when productivity requirements make some mental health professionals not be genuine and ethical when counseling their clients?
I welcome your feedback.
Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, "Miller Chat" in Massachusetts.