Health grade…..

I find myself saying “…we’re not in Kansas anymore!” at least once a month, or so it seems, since our move to the Sunshine state. Case in point the other day when trying to get through a “meet and greet” with a new family practitioner. In the good ole days one would call a doctor’s office with stated purpose (i.e. schedule a wellness checkup) and voilĂ …appointment scheduled and exam completed… in relatively short order time. Things are done a little differently now. First you must schedule a meeting (akin to a meet and greet) which will most likely not be with an actual M.D. but rather an APRN (advanced practice nurse practitioner) who will simply rapid-fire ask a boatload of questions and tersely request that you respond ever so briefly whereupon then you’ll undergo a three and a half minute–if that–“wellness” checkup. Mind you, I have no particular animosity with APRN’s…and, truthfully, I’m in (knock on wood) quite good health so meeting with the APRN is just fine with me.

When I moved to Alabama it took me nearly a year to find a family practitioner. As you may recall dear reader, my knickers got mighty twisted back then. Here I was at age 55 calling practice after practice, and before answering my question as to whether the doctor was accepting new patients I would be asked to state my date of birth. On one of those calls when I stated my birth year I was told that the doctor was not accepting new patients in the “Geriatric” category! Talk about a blue headspace day that turned out to be!

Finding a doc was much easier in Northern Virginia (and I liked her!) so I was hopeful that the process in my new state would be equally so.

Nope.

Here we go again.

That’s really the painful thing about moving: finding the right fit when it comes to a doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist, hair dresser, etc. So far, I’ve got the hair dresser and the dentist covered however the doctor search is still on.

Naturally I have been doing internet searches to find doctors in my area. I note the ones that state “accepting new patients” and then I perform a cursory search for additional information on the doctor’s background via Healthgrades or Vitals.com. Once I have narrowed my list down I call to make an appointment. Call after call yields disappointment. “We’re sorry, the doctor is not accepting new patients is the refrain. I’ll admit to a snap of the tongue after six calls on one particular morning; “Jeesh; how hard is it to update the damn website for goodness sake!”

But fear not dear reader. After a laborious search to find a doctor accepting new patients I finally get an appointment. I’ll admit I am not ecstatic about the doctor based on me being a tad picky about his background but the practice is less than five miles from my house and it is associated with the same health and wellness company from my previous state. This would certainly save time filling out forms and such given that most of my health information is in that shared system.

In a nutshell, my appointment goes like this:

APRN: [Without a scintilla of cheeriness]: Asks a bunch of questions regarding meds (I don’t take any), diet, exercise, family history, etc. You know the drill.

Me: I answer her rapid fire questions (and get mildly annoyed that she interrupts if I provide more than a four word response.)

APRN: Do you consume alcohol?

Me: Yes, a glass or two of red wine every day.

APRN: Everyday? For the first time she makes eye-contact and it seems to me, given her overall brusqueness, that she thoroughly disapproves.

Me: I do not drink hard liquor. I’m half-Italian and so I enjoy a chilled white wine on hot summer days and red wine with my dinner. I do realize the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer but I do not have the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations and while I know that doesn’t mean I am without risk I think my overall lifestyle is….

Holy Cow….she interrupts me …

APRN: Do you have a will?

Me: [taken aback by the brush off]….Excuse me? A will? I’ve never been asked that before.

APRN: [with growing impatience]: Well if you are going to have a primary care physician he needs to know if you have an advanced directive. And then, as if I’m dumb as a rock, she starts to tell me what an advanced directive is. I hold up my hand to stop her: I know exactly what an advanced directive is and why it is necessary to have one.

Me: Of course, yes I have an advanced directive. But again, really….I have never been asked that question before for a simple wellness checkup and I have been getting them every year for some four decades.

APRN: [condescendingly]: Most people carry a card in their purse or wallet with their advance directive wishes on it.

Me: My headspace isn’t into carrying it in my purse for say, another 10 years at least.

APRN: Do you own a gun?

Me: [Head pops]: Say what!! What the______! EXCUSE ME! What kind of question is that? Definitely no one has EVER asked that question I say, with considerably restrained ire I might add.

APRN: [There’s that terseness again] We just want to know if there are any firearms in your house.

Me: [Now I am the brusque one]: How is this whatsoever relevant to getting a wellness checkup?

APRN: She puts up in hands in a feigned attempt to appear simpatico. I’m not here to infringe on your second amendment rights and any information you provide is confidential…you know, the HIPPA laws.

I want to respond with something biting and wickedly clever but I am not good at either when it comes to retorts. I find it hilarious that she seriously expects me to believe information is confidential given the politicization of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.

Me: [as calm and matter-of-fact as possible]: It’s none of anyone’s business what I may or may not have in my house.

APRN: Well it is simply to have insight into the home environment if there is depression, and the like. It’s information for your mental health background.

Me: [A breath away from walking out]: I know what is in my health chart and there is absolutely nothing in it that remotely suggests mental health issues. (I could have replied that most folks can find any number of household items under their roofs that could potential cause harm, other than a gun, in the event of a mental health crisis but thought it best not to go there.)

APRN: Okay, well I’ve got enough information here for updating your chart.

She then takes my blood pressure.

142/80.

APRN: It’s a little high.

Me: [deadpan voice]YA THINK?! I’m quite positive it would have been lower if you would have taken it five minutes ago.

As I walked out of the building I make a mental note to tell my husband that this place rates a solid D health grade. It’s not even nine-thirty in the morning and my mind was swirling with stress over having to begin the search all over again. Still, while my “five minute” wellness visit was less than impressive I recognize how lucky I am just to have that. And while I gave that morning visit a “D” it could have been an “F” but the front desk person was rather pleasant. There is bliss in that…as well as the latte that I am going to enjoy to get me out of negative headspace.