Patient Care and Caring Better


            There’s good news and not so good news in my latest visit to my local Mayo Health System clinic for my yearly medication check appointment.  Even though I requested phone or electronic reminders for the appointment, a printed letter came in the mail.  While blood was being drawn, one of the techs asked if she could pet my Seeing Eye dog.  Good news was she respected my “Please wait until there’s not a needle in my arm” comment. 

            The medical assistant who roomed me and asked for info immediately told me about helping at Special Olympics and the blind boy she had worked with who was a wonderful bowler.  Whatever happened to talking about the weather or the cute shirt I had on for ice-breaker conversation!

            After that conversation, she asked the name of the person with me in the waiting room.  I gave her a puzzled look and she said she needed my friend’s name.  It dawned on me that she might be thinking that this person was my “keeper”, so I said that the person didn’t have anything to do with my medical situation. She said the doctor might need it, so I relented and she wrote it down. 

            Then she took my blood pressure, which wasn’t as high as you might expect if you know my reactions to being patronized.  The rest of the appointment went fine and I escaped with a refill on my cholesterol medication. 

            Since last year’s appointment for the same thing had included a different medical assistant marking in my records that I needed help dressing, bathing and with meal preparation and then asking me if this was correct, I decided that this was a more widespread problem than just one person’s making inaccurate assumptions.  When I called to talk to a patient satisfaction representative, she listened and we brainstormed solutions.  I lean toward medical assistant training rather than an individual “shame on you” chat no matter how well done.  So I offered to help and sent a one-page tips for working with blind patients handout I’ve made for lecturing university nursing students.  Time will tell if don’t assume and don’t patronize make it into the training in a memorable and doable way to the medical assistants.

            The jury is still out on whether the new patient portal on the Internet is usable with my screen reading software.  The captcha for sign up is not. There’s an audio version that does not work at all, so I’ll have to wait for a sighted person to come and type the squiggly letters into the box. After a half hour of my student worker’s time and two phone calls, I think I’m registered. Maybe when I get signed up I’ll be able to make and check appointments, read my own lab results, etc.  I’m alive because of good medical care I got sixty-four years ago when I was born premature—that’s the first good news for me.  But the not so good news is there are still old stereotypic assumptions abounding in my medical encounters.