All of us hate waiting in lines. Our society breeds a “me-first” attitude. Often the lines in which we wait are slow to move and, we become irritable and angry. Somehow there is always someone who is able to outsmart the system and get served ahead of their place in the queue. In the typical queue at the grocery store, (or at the apple store genius bar) we become impatient because we want to get what we need and move on with our lives. The surgical/procedural waiting room is an entirely different beast. Here, stress, anxiety, uncertainty and fear serve to make even the shortest of waits seem unbearable. Families sit crouched forward in their uncomfortable chairs watching the door in hopes of seeing the smiling face of their surgeon with every turn of the doorknob. Here the wait may be rewarded by preservation of a life or, unfortunately, sometimes by a less desirable outcome.
Recently, I had the uncomfortable experience of sitting in the surgical waiting room in support of a patient, not as the physician breezing in to deliver the much anticipated news. Needless to say this experience has left me wanting to better communicate with my patients’ families as they sit and wait for me to complete a procedure.