Like most people I hate waiting. I don't like waiting in lines, I don't like waiting for appointments but mostly I don't like waiting for investigations. I write this whilst sitting waiting for an MRI, I arrived this morning to be informed of a 1hr delay. It is not just the boredom in the waiting room or the fact you will now possibly be late for another appointment, it can often be the anxiety of the delay of a test that has been at the forefront of your mind for sometime.
Many cancer patients experience scan anxiety, the time period around scans can be frightening, you are waiting to find out if treatment is working or if cancer has grown or returned. The results of the scan may completely change your life as you know it. Many ovarian cancer women live 3 months at a time, scan to scan, planning beyond that can be difficult. Delays and time in the waiting room adds to this anxiety. I find the hardest time is after the scan waiting for results. The knowledge that the result is available but not to you; often you do not get results for days or weeks. Last week I had a PET scan I don't have an oncology appointment to formally receive results until tomorrow. I just hope the MRI results will be available tomorrow and that I don't have to wait another fortnight until my next appointment.
As a healthcare practitioner I have the insight into the reasons for delays and understand the importance of prioritizing emergencies but as a patient it is still frustrating. I do believe that there are many ways the experience can be improved through good communication delivered in an empathetic manner. Often as healthcare workers we get so accustomed to these delays that we forget the experience of the patient. As a patient I would love a call to inform me of a delay and having some extra time at home rather than in the waiting room, or on arrival telling me to go have a coffee. When I am told of the delay it is nice to acknowledge that it may affect plans. For me the most important aspect of communication around delays is to try and offer a realistic time frame or none at all. When you tell me 1hr and make me wait 2hrs it just gets my blood boiling. Please come back and let me know of further delay, or don't say 1hr when it will likely be longer.
Update: After writing this down, I got into the MRI scanner, unfortunately the monitor for the scanner decided it didn't want to play ball so my scan will be rescheduled. Aghhh. On a positive note the radiographer was lovely, extremely apologetic for something beyond her control and she is arranging to reschedule my scan with QLD Xray so that it can be expedited and to save me the stress. Communication really makes a big difference to the patient experience.