Wow: was THAT a bad patient experience!

I went for my preemployment physical 2 days ago, so today I had to drive another 45 minutes each way to get my skin test read. They placed it right over layers of scar tissue, and I said usually the other arm was used, but it was a radiology tech placing the bleb and she said it HAD TO BE THE LEFT FOREARM.

The first nurse today wasn't sure, which isn't her fault because the entire arm has indurated areas, and the second nurse was immediately sure, which made me suspicious; a doctor then fiddled with my arm for a minute or so and decided I needed a chest x-ray. OBVIOUS positive test there. But whatever.

So I go out to the desk again, and the dark-haired mean lady (DHML) calls my new job and leaves a voice mail. "I just got voice mail," she said. "What are the implications of that?" "It means I can't TALK to anyone there."

My temper went right up to about the yellow zone. "Right. What are the implications regarding my getting my chest xray?"

"Since you had a positive TB skin test [announced to waiting room at large], you have to have a chest xray."

"Right. And you need permission from my employer to do this?"

"Well, they have a right to know."

"Actually, they don't. I don't recall signing anything saying they could have specific information about my health."

"They're paying for it."

"And yet."

DHML and I glared at each other.

Finally, I said, "Look, I've had a dozen chest x-rays in the last few months. How about you call the hospital and request those, and everyone's happy?"

She handed me a release of information form and a business card with their fax number on it.

I said, "I don't think you understand. YOU aren't releasing any information. THEY are releasing the information TO YOU."

DHML: "It's up to you, if you want to call and have them fax it, then."

Me: "It'll have to be initiated from your side."

DHML: "I know how to do my job."

Me: [Calls medical records, finds out doctor's office has to request xrays.] "They said you have to call and ask for them."

DHML: "OH GOD. Why do people have to make things so complicated?"

Me: "I was just wondering the same thing myself. So either way, you're going to have to talk to someone. I'm in favor of whatever gets it done faster."

DHML: "You know what? I have other patients. I can't talk to you all afternoon about this."

Me: "OK. I'm going to leave for a while and run some errands. When I get back, you will have magically remembered that I'm the customer and that NONE OF THIS IS VERY CONVENIENT FOR ME EITHER, OKAY?"

Accordingly I went to Trader Joes and stomped around with all the yuppie Thanksgiving shoppers who were all in a similarly bad mood. While I was there, the HR dude from the new job called, apologetic for all the trouble. Because what I REEEEEAAALLY wanted from all this? Is to irritate my new administrators!

At the finish I went back and had a chest x-ray. I waited one hour for it to be read, because the doctor was "doing his treadmill." I suggested that as I'd spent 3.5 hours thus far having a skin test read, perhaps he could trot along while someone held it up for him, but that got a withering glace. "We don't bother doctor on the treadmill." SERIOUSLY?

Stunningly the x-ray was fine. Not only do I think the skin test was negative (I'm an RN too), but I am pretty sure someone would have noticed TB on all the chest x-rays obtained for my SVT visits.

But holy cow did they act like this was a BFD. "We have to report this," intoned Doctor, "and you will be contacted by public health." Fine. I know a lot of healthcare workers with positive TB skin test histories, and I have never heard of this level of craziness.

I spent all afternoon on this. And that receptionist? Is an example of "how to be an asshole to hapless patients." And of "it is not about you." And some other things too, probably. I may or may not still be bitter and tense over all of this.