The Value of Listening to Your Patients and CA

By: William M. Austin, DC, CCSP, CCRD

It was one of those Mondays. The faster I went, the worse things became. I was behind. Kaye, my receptionist/CA, popped her head into the treatment room to offer assistance, a sure sign that chaos was now settling in and a very clear confirmation of whose fault it was. You know ‘the look.’

Right then, an older man having low back pain called and asked to be seen that day. Against Kaye’s better judgment, I said yes. After all, we had a long lunch scheduled, and it would be a shame not to squeeze in a new patient. We all agreed to return half an hour early from lunch to process this gentleman who promised to arrive on time at 1:30. Patient appointments started at 2:00.

By 1:50 I was starting to come unglued. The finger tapping from Kaye seemed louder than normal. At 1:53 the front door slowly opened, and in shuffled a slightly bedraggled 76 year-old gentleman. I jumped up, shook his hand enthusiastically, told him how glad I was to see him, and escorted him to the consultation room. Normally Kaye would have done this, but I wanted to lend a helping hand (aka guilt-induced action).

When I asked about the history of his low back complaint he began, “Back in 1952…” I know that the most important aspect of patient/doctor relationships starts with listening; however, going back to 1952 wasn’t appealing. Knowing that all was lost as far as examination time, I suggested he fill out the paperwork, and if he had time, we would work in the necessary procedures between patients (who were starting to arrive). Somehow, the over-seventy group always manages to get between the door and me. He began telling me about an incident that had happened back in 1968. Perhaps, he considered this a recent flare-up.

He caught my attention when he mentioned going to a Chiropractor and being fitted for orthotics. The orthotics had really helped for the first 12 years, but for the last 5 years they had been ‘killing’ him. At that point, he pulled out the crustiest pair of functional orthotics I’ve ever seen. They were also in the wrong shoes—the left orthotic was in the right shoe and vice versa. No wonder they hurt!

I switched them around. He placed his shoes back on, then got up and walked around with more bounce and ease than before. As he left he said, “These feel great – like they used to! Thanks a lot. I’ll give you a call if I need you.”

I never saw him again, but I remember laughing and making a commitment to be more efficient by listening to my patients.

P.S. Kaye’s afternoon went much better.

About the Author

An enthusiastic speaker, Dr. William Austin provides an energetic approach to learning. He draws from over 35 years of healthcare experience, which includes athletic training, emergency medicine, English bonesetting, and Chiropractic. Dr. Austin has developed two successful practices. His patients range from newborns to centenarians, couch potatoes to professional athletes. Dr. Austin is a 1986 graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic.