“I thought you said you treated anxiety.”
“Then write the damn prescription.” Her lip curled. “Or are you not a real doctor?”
“As I said, I will give you a few pills until we can get you into a psychiatrist. No more than that.”
“I don’t want your damn ‘few.’ I paid for an office visit. Are you saying I just wasted my money?”
“Actually, I don’t think spending time with me is a waste of money at all.” I smiled at her. She didn’t think that was funny.
She stood up and started pacing.
This was the first time I had met her. She had no insurance. She wanted me to prescribe a large quantity of a controlled substance. I don’t even do that for my established patients.
“I am going to step out to print your checkout information and will get that referral started for you.” Usually I do all of this in the room with the patient so we can chat while the computer does its thing, but I had just about had enough of her.
I took my computer to my office and started printing the superbill. The door to the exam room opened and a head peeked out. Seeing the way was clear, the rest of her body quickly followed, making a beeline for the front door. My assistant ran after her.
“Ma’am! You forgot your paperwork!” She walked past, brushing the proffered sheets of paper away.
She hit the exit door.
“Wait, ma’am! You didn’t check out!” the clerk shouted after her. She didn’t even look back as she barreled out of the front door.
This isn’t the first time something like this had occurred and really, I was not fazed at all except to wonder if she would get a patient satisfaction survey and slam me. Occupational hazard. If I were a really, really good physician, I would have made her feel happy about not getting her drugs.
Oh, well. Bet she won’t be back.
A few weeks later as I was checking my online reviews, I noticed several sites had similar one star reviews and outrageous, inflammatory claims about how this person was mistreated. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out who I had offended, having already forgotten this woman.
Interestingly, the reviews were all left on the same day, so on a hunch, I checked the schedule. There it was. Her name. All of the unpleasantness came flooding back and I seethed.
The next day, several high level emails came from corporate wanting me to explain myself about a patient complaint filed with the hospital system. By her.
Two weeks later, a certified letter arrived saying that I was under investigation by the state medical board for a litany of outrageous claims. Her again.
I spent six months of nail biting and extreme anxiety as the attorney said, “This is so silly! STILL it (is) the state board. You just never know how these things are going to go…”
This was the first time I had ever faced harassment of this level and the first time I had ever had to defend myself to the state board. Throughout the process, I had the feeling that I was assumed to be guilty until proven innocent, that the burden of proof was on me. I kept telling myself that it was OK for me to go through this if it meant the system caught physicians who should not be practicing, who were dangerous.
And yet it stole six months of my life. When I was holding my baby, I thought about her. When I was cooking dinner, I thought about her. In the shower or lying awake at night, I thought about her. It should not be that easy for someone to steal your life!
In the end, our written response was accepted and the case was dismissed. I don’t think the woman cared about the outcome when she got her letter saying it was going no further. She had gotten what she wanted. I had been miserable for six months in return for spending 30 minutes with her.
Next time. Next time I won’t let it get to me. Or so I say. I still get angry and shaky when I think about this episode.