You go to the hospital. Your doctor walks briskly into your room, glances at you, says a few words, hardly waits for the answer and whisks out.
So it seems. And sometimes is.
There are reasons. The doctor has often spent up to several minutes reading the nurses' notes on your chart, looking at X-rays and tests, consulting with other doctors and nurses about you, consulting the pharmacist, reading up on similar cases.
A two-minute glance at you may reveal all that's needed. Good doctors are busy doctors, with other sick patients.
All true enough. But you have questions on your mind.
"Get ready to spend time with the physician," warns Georgiana White, a nurse-teacher at the Harvard School of Public Health. Know what you want to say about how you feel, rehearse it, and "get ready to ask your questions. Write them down. Because he won't spend a long time with you."
Write your questions down as they come up; otherwise you may forget them. Nurse Barbara Huttman (in her book, "The Patient's Advocate," Penguin, 1981) says that unless you know exactly what you want to say, your doctor will dash in and "he will tweak your toes, ask how you're feeling and be with the next patient before you have a chance to answer that you really feel quite rotten."
Your doctor can try to give you some idea when to expect a visit each day, as a rule. If mid-morning comes and the doctor usually makes a morning visit -- and you don't want to be someplace else or asleep when the visit finally takes place -- you are entitled to pick up your phone and call the doctor's office and ask when to expect a visit.
A nurse may be willing to phone for you. Or, says nurse Huttman, you may use "those magic words" in this or other situations: "Are you going to phone the doctor or shall I?"