Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room always gives me the time and opportunity for some serious “people watching”. Yesterday was no exception. However, it occurred to me that by being in a neurologist’s office I was observing a select group. You don’t get a referral for a sore throat!
My “primary care” doctor is located in a clinic that also includes pediatricians so his waiting room is always an interesting mix of young and old, sick and well. It is a busy place with lots of conversation and interaction between patients. Specialty offices tend to be smaller and quieter. Over the years I’ve visited pediatricians, allergists, orthopedists, gynecologists, rheumatologists, neurosurgeons, cardiologists, otolaryngologiests, and opthamologists. Each field has a slightly different clientele and a different ambiance, if you can call it that. In some specialty waiting rooms there is a high level of anxiety and hushed conversations.
These brief forays into other medical fields often cause me to marvel at the expertise required by the “general practitioners” who cared for our ancestors. They must have been very brave to treat so many different diseases and conditions with so little knowledge. I say that because it just wasn’t possible to study the whole body and every potential disease with equal proficiency. Imagine being in a small town like Caddo and treating everything from an ingrown toenail to a brain tumor! There were even diseases and conditions they had to treat that no longer exist. And for decades the family doctor traveled to the homes of their patients. I am only sixty-three and yet I was treated at home by the local doctor when I had pneumonia as a teenager.
I am absolutely in favor of having a primary care physician who coordinates all of my health care, but I’m also truly thankful to live in 2013 when there are so many specialists for him to refer me to if a disease or condition arises that he doesn’t feel competent to treat with his usual level of professional skill. Someone gave me some great advice years ago when I was reluctant to go to an orthopedist. He said, “Do you want to be treated by someone who sees this kind of injury once a year or someone who sees it once a week?”
So…for several more times during the next few months I will be part of a select group, sitting in a specialty waiting room, observing people who for the most part are in much worse shape than I am, and I will appreciate the experience and diagnosis of someone who has seen my problem many times before.