I’m supposed to see my oncologist this summer. I pick up my phone. I hesitate. I tell myself I’m just not up to it and I’ll call another day. And I put down the phone.
This has happened now every day for awhile. I know that I will make that appointment.
But today is not the day.
I have to gather the strength and courage it takes to make an appointment for a followup visit.
Many emotions overtake me when I go to the oncologist, including high anxiety.
At my last appointment with my oncologist, he was kind as usual. So why the hesitancy to make the appointment and go? The answer lies in a survey.
Like so many hospitals, my hospital has a Center for Advanced Care, which is trying to be a kinder, gentler place and take stock of the whole patient. The staff wants to make sure that they are meeting the psychological needs, as well as the physical wellness, of the patient.
I think this is a great approach — to an extent.
My last appointment was a bit jarring for me, though, all because of a survey that patients are now told to take before seeing their oncologists. The survey asks you to rate your feelings on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest level.
The minute I saw the questions, I totally got it. The staff wants to make sure I’m psychologically in a good place. To me, this is an oxymoron, as an oncology office isn’t exactly where you’ll find me in the best mental state. In fact, I’m usually in high-panic mode there. And I’ll bet that, for the majority of people, an oncology department isn’t the bastion of sound psychological wellness.
As I was filling out the never-ending survey, answering questions about my crying habits, depression, and so on, my heart started racing and I was feeling out of sorts: should I be feeling all the things the survey asked? I continued stressing. Then the next question asked me to rank my anxiety level on the aforementioned scale.
Being honest, I chose 9 out of 10.
Had I answered the survey at home, it would’ve been much lower, as I am not typically heightened emotionally. My nerves are in control in my native habit, but not so much in the sterility of an oncologist’s office.
After the survey incident and now really upset, I was ushered into the examination room. There I was sitting on the examination table, ready for the exam, when I heard that familiar knock on the door, followed by an unfamiliar smiling face. She introduced herself as a social worker and said it’s policy for her and other social workers to check with anyone who answered that anxiety-level question with a 3 or higher.
Of course, now my anxiety level felt like a 10.
“Is there anything we can do for you?” she asked.
“Huh?” I barely gasped.
“Why is your anxiety level so high?” she asked.
“Because I’m here,” I said.
And, with that, she quickly excused herself and left. And so did some of my anxiety. By the time my doctor entered the room, I was spent.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea of a survey and keeping a handle on how patients are doing, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. These social workers are so necessary. However, perhaps mailing the survey would have been a better idea — after all, I am less anxious on my own turf.
I think from now on I will try to be less stressed. And I will rank all my answers as a 1.
Do you typically complete surveys regarding mental state at doctor’s offices?
If so, do you find these surveys helpful?
Tags: medical survey, mental well being, oncologist, oncologist's office, social worker