Feedback Needed: Pediatrician Dilemma

My boys have been going to the same pediatrician since Luke was born, and I have always been happy with the care she’s given them. The nurses and assistants in the office are fantastic and always treat my boys like they are their favorites, so I have no complaints there. I chose our doc because I actually knew her before I was looking for a doctor; I was her son’s “teacher” for 6 months at a previous job (I will explain the quotation marks some other time in another post).

However, there have always been problems with a couple of things.

The first is the wait to speak to a nurse on the phone. If you call in with a question for the nurse or because you have a sick kid, you are put on hold until one of 2 phone nurses (one of whom is awesome, one of whom is not) can answer your call. During busy times (say Sept-Apr), it’s not uncommon to wait 15 minutes to talk to a nurse. This can be a problem.

The second is this: while they are usually great about getting you in the same day if you have a sick kid, the waits can be atrocious. Even worse, when you have an appointment that is scheduled ahead of time, you often still wait a long time. By long time I mean anywhere from 2-20 minutes in the waiting room, then a nurse takes you to a room and takes vitals, and then you might wait for another 1-45 minutes in the room (generally, I’d say we wait 20 minutes in a room). Our last two appointments have been really bad. And, they’ve been early-morning appointments. I just cannot wrap my brain around an office that opens at 9 and a doctor who is running 45 minutes late, meaning a 9:45 appointment happens at 10:30.

Sidenote: I get that doctors have a lot on their plate, and that appointments don’t always go as smoothly as scheduled. I’m not asking that we be seen the minute we walk in. Our office seems worse than normal to me, though.

Third: since our move, the office is now a good 25 minutes away from our house, and not in the direction we generally travel.

So, I’m planning to switch doctors. I’ve gotten a great recommendation for a practice that’s closer to us from 3 different moms. Plus, the doc I want to take them to is a man, which I think is a good idea going forward since I have all boys. Plus, I’ve inquired about calling in and how that works, and it sounds much better than the situation we have now.

My dilemma is this: I feel bad leaving our current doc, because I really like her. Not like we’re so friendly that we’d go out for lunch or anything, but I feel like she’s been with us through so much: horrible allergic reactions, millions of cases of croup, etc. I feel like I owe her an explanation as to why we’re leaving, and I want to be honest about the phone time/appointment time being a real issue. Should I do this, or just walk away and request their records be transferred? That just feels wrong.

Have any of you had an experience like this? What would you do? How long do you wait on the phone/in the office? Help!

15 responses to “Feedback Needed: Pediatrician Dilemma

  1. Nicole, after being with our pediatrician for over 5 years, we left her practice. We left for very similar reasons; LONG wait times was the main reason. I wrote her a letter thanking her for her service and explained my reasons for leaving. I told her that I would love for her to continue caring for my children if these other factors were different, but for now this was the best choice for our family. She called me! (I was nervous to answer the phone, as I hate confrontation, but it was great!) She thanked me for the letter and explanation. She told me that she was sad to see us go and if we ever wanted to return she would gladly welcome us back.
    Being honest with a written letter turned out to be great. You’ve also got a really great reason to leave since you just moved!
    Good luck.

  2. we love our doctor. he was eric’s doctor when eric was little. we’re even paying more insurance-wise just to go to him.
    our waits there vary – i don’t think his office is super fast. if you have to talk to a nurse, they’ll call you back anywhere from 5-30 minutes later depending on how busy they are and the nature of your call.
    but, our doctor is extremely thorough and i really feel like he takes his time during his examinations and listens to what we say.
    moving and being further away from your current doctor’s office is a great excuse.

  3. I do like the idea of writing a letter. It is non confrontational but in the end helps them out. I have switched doctors twice now for Kaylee, but have not done that because I have not felt the need to. I have not been with either of the other two long enough to really feel like they would listen to me. I just was not as pleased with their care as I thought I should be with them taking care of my daughter. I have, however, worked in doctors offices and hospitals. We have gotten many letters and have always taken them very serious and like getting feedback.. Of course, good feedback is always easier to take. I think it may help them in the long run to understand where they parents perspective is coming from, sometimes it is easy to only see things from the doctors side of view and not totally know what the parents are thinking if they don’t let us know(speaking again from working in the doctors office.) Also, if it is a letter than they can either take it and improve or just leave it, but you have done your part to help them.

    Hope this helps but that would be what I would do if I had a stronger connection to the doctors that I have left.

  4. I recently changed docs, after a few similar things happened at our docs office. However, I strongly disliked the staff, the people on the phone were rude and belittling, the wait was waaay to long ALL the time, and my my choose to change to the male doc and the old female doc was rude to him about it. I called St. Louis Peds every year to see if they had started taking our insurance and it wasn’t until Matt’s work changed insurance that we FINALLY got to switch. I love it there! NO complaints at all. Fast call backs, quick apts (sick and otherwise). We see McKinney and Mayer. I’ve only heard fabulous things of ALL the docs in this practice.

    I also agree on writing a letter. Our office sent surveys a few years ago and I was given the chance to be brutally honest. Others must have been complaining for them to do that. A year after the surveys things were still the same. I did send a letter after we left. I want the docs to know why they loose business. Its said that the office/nurses carry such a wait but, they do.

    • My kids have seen Dr. Mckinney at St. Louis Peds for 20 years. He is smart, kind, and has never made the wrong call on numerous issues including the big stuff like a brain tumor, whooping cough, holes in the heart and broken bones) He is a gentle man and my kids loved him. My oldest chidren cannot see him anymore because they are 18 and 20. My youngest is 16 and he has two more years. It will be a sad day when we make our last visit with Dr. McKinney!!!!

  5. You know how I feel about the doctor you are considering switching to. From an inside perspective of knowing a physician…They want/need to know about office issues. They don’t always have the time to make sure the behind the scenes is running smoothly. And honestly, the only way they know is to ask patients. Whether you change physicians or not, I highly recommend sending a letter to let her know the issues you have had with wait times when calling in etc. I honestly think she will be very appreciative.

    I left a specialist (one of the best in the area) because of similar issues. My opinion is that I don’t care if you are THE BEST in the country at what you do, your office staff should still be competent, because honestly, your patients deal with the office staff more than they deal with the physician.

  6. We sometimes have long waits too. I’ve learned which doctors & nurse practioners have longer waits and avoid them if possible.

    I think a letter or voice mail would be helpful for your doctor.

    When moved back here, I cried at Morgan’s last dr appointment. I loved them. We moms really build relationships with our kids’ dr offices!!

  7. We talked a little about this the other day, but I will also let you know that we have NEVER had to wait a significant amount of time at the practice you and I spoke about. I don’t remember ever being in the office for more than an hour. We generally wait 10 minutes or so to get in a waiting room and the most we’ve ever waited inside the office was 20 minutes.. Seriously – they run a smooth operation there. Just FYI. 🙂

  8. Tough situation. I like the letter idea.

  9. My sister just went through this exact situation. She had waited as much as 2 hours in the waiting room but due to the insurance they had at that time, there was no alternative. She recently got a new job and new insurance at which time she promptly changed back to my niece’s original pediatrican. She did inform the office that they would be leaving the practice and found out that they were scheduling 3 patients per time slot. It sounds like you may have a similar situation with your current ped. I would highly recommend our ped but she’s in Alton, IL which I’m guessing would be kind of a drive for you. (hehe) I’m not sure where you live but when we lived in St. Peters we went to Dr. Thomas Harrison at St. Charles County Pediatrics (on South Hwy 94) and loved him. He was very kind and thorough. We had a scare involving a possible heart problem (which worked itself out) after Syd was born and he would personally call to check on her progress. I hope you find the perfect fit for your family.

  10. I would definitely write the letter and be honest about the bad stuff – but I’d also include that, despite all the staff/wait problems, you really liked her as a pedi. It might be easier for you to write if you say both, and she might hear it better if your letter says “wow, you’re such a great doctor, why are you hiding behind that lousy staff?” That gives her the confidence that, if she fixes the staff/wait issues, things will truly be better and patients will be happier. If you told her she stunk too (or were silent and let her assume that she did), she’d probably have no motivation to do anything about it.

  11. I did this when Will was 1. For some reason I did very little research when choosing a pediatrician, I just called the first name that was recommended to us. I never felt totally comfortable with it, though, and after Will turned one I asked a friend (she’s a nurse and her husband is a dr.) for a recommendation & she couldn’t say enough good things about McKinney. I agree with all that’s been said re: his office. We love him, and his nurse, and have also seen many of the other docs in that practice and have always been pleased. I’ve only had to wait what I would consider a long time once or twice, and if I have all 4 boys there with me they make sure we get a big room and are very patient and understanding with any distractions I may be facing.
    When I switched I was really nervous about possible confrontation, but a nurse called and asked why we were leaving. We had just moved, too, so I used that as part of the reason, but also told her that I didn’t feel like the doc was the best fit for us. She thanked me and said that they always want to hear ways to improve. So I guess gentle honesty is the best way to go.

  12. I agree that you need to do what is best for YOU and the boys. The timing IS right, in that you have a recent move and it makes sense. A letter is a good idea because if the clinic is like RIch’s, a lot of stuff rides on what type of feedback MDs get and a letter assuring that it wasn’t HER care that influenced your decision to leave would be appreciated.

  13. We go to another doctor that is at St. Louis Peds. Have seen others, too, as they are always quick to get us in when the boys are sick and need to get in. The location is very convenient!

  14. I like the idea of writing a letter. I think the reasons of waiting on the phone or for an apptment so long is not worth any physician. And the fact that you’ve moved and a closer doc makes sense. Nicole, there are many other things in life you can feel guilty about. Switching docs shouldn’t be one of them.

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