Re-Examining the Examining Room Wait

Posted on: November 8th, 2010 by

Ah, the waiting room.

Like many, if not all of you, I’ve spent long times waiting in the examination room for the doctor to arrive. I’ve waited as long as an hour, or as short as five minutes. When the wait is short, it’s sweet. When the wait is long, well….

It feels like a lifetime, and each minute feels like a year. By the time the doctor enters the room, the patient is so stressed out, that he/she needs medical help just for wait-anxiety.

But there are ways to cope to keep your stress level even-keeled. Feel free to follow one or more of the following to help keep the nerves at bay. These are what I do to de-stress:

Bring a book or several magazines to read. Don’t rely on the reading material at a doctor’s office; bring what you want to read and make sure it will provide at least a couple of hours of reading.

Bring music — an MP3 player with headphones often do the trick against wait-anxiety.

Sketch or draw. It engrosses one’s attention.

Deep breathe. Use the diaphram to breathe in.

Meditate or repeat a certain mantra. Mine is “I’m powerful!” It helps alleviate the wait-anxiety and, well, empowers me.

Lie down on the examination table and close one’s eyes. You might even be lucky enough to take a nap.

These tips will help keep your stress where it belongs — away from you.

Do you have any strategies that help you cope with waiting room anxiety? I would love to hear about them.

This posting is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Calling the Shots: Coaching Your Way Through the Medical System. To obtain these excerpts regularly, please subscribe to this blog by clicking the orange subscribe button. I am a professional writer and have published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on my breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. I can be contacted at and Photobucket

This blog posting is an excerpt from my book in progress, Calling the Shots: Coaching Yourself Through the Medical System. Stay in loop for when it comes out. Subscribe to the blog in upper righthand corner.

12 Responses to Re-Examining the Examining Room Wait

  1. Lisa P. had this to say about that:

    I discovered this idea by accident. As a Mom, I often had crayons in my bag… so, I bought a fun coloring book. Once, someone else in the waiting room asked if she could share! I had previously done word-finds or organized my calendar (the latter tends to fall through the cracks), yet found them more stressful than pretending to be a kid again for a little while. GREAT article, Beth!

  2. Client Queen had this to say about that:

    Some of the best doctors will have a great waiting room so you don’t have to prepare and agonize over how to spend your time while you are waiting. If your doctor is not one of these, encourage them to make their waiting room better by providing snacks, drinks, brain puzzles (like copies of sudoku), and a large number of current, easy to read magazines. A great video playing on a television screen would help as well as long as it is not offensive and geared toward a wide audience.

    If your doctor is not willing to improve their waiting room for all of their clients and you are on your own, don’t fret! If you see many doctors, than have a bag with your entertainment all ready to go:
    A book or two, mp3 player, small dvd player with headphones and a few dvds, puzzles, writing paper for notes or lists, a few snacks and some bottles of water.

    With a bag already packed, you will be off to your appointment without being concerned if you will have to wait 5 minutes or over an hour!

    Good luck to you.

  3. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


    I love the crayon and the coloring book idea!! It really helps to return to one’s inner child when one is feeling insecure at the doctor’s office.

    I’m going to try this at my next appointment!

  4. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Client Queen,

    You’re right about some doctors already having fantastic waiting rooms that make you feel good. Speaking up to doctors whose waiting rooms are less-than-stellar is also a great idea.

    I do agree that bringing a goody bag with many tools to help one cope — especially if this is a first visit or you know the waiting room isn’t up to snuff — is a good idea. Even if the waiting room is nice, though, it’s great to bring one’s own bag of relaxation tricks!

    I really appreciate your comment.

  5. had this to say about that:

    While diversions work for me when I’m sitting in the waiting room, the really hard waiting comes when they usher me into the examining room. That’s when my blood pressure goes up and I listen for the sound of my doctor’s voice in the hall. When I realize he’s not opening my door, but the one next door… my nerves usually ratchet up a notch. The first couple of years after my diagnosis were the worst. My husband always went with me, but his words of encouragement fell on deaf ears.

    Last week I had a six-year follow up appointment. The nurse came in and said, “Where’s your husband?” I told her, “I’ve graduated.” She thought that was funny, but I stifled the urge to say: “If you only knew how hard it’s been to come here, sometimes. Please don’t make me regret graduation.” Please, let it be good news I hear, today, and it was.

  6. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    I am glad you did receive good news! I know exactly how you feel. My tension really spikes when I’m in the examination room waiting, waiting, and waiting for the doctor to enter.

    Sometimes I feel like screaming. And I’ve been graduating over the past nine years.

    As difficult as it is — and it is very difficult — I do try the above techniques, and I’ve had some success. These won’t work for everyone, I’m sure.

    Congratulations on hitting your six-year followup. That’s something to be proud of. I don’t think the examination room wait is ever easy.

  7. Chez had this to say about that:

    Beth what a thoughtful post; I am so grateful to you. I have yet to be blessed with a waiting room containing adequate reading material etc. I smile because myself, or my late husband, have been on this journey for all but 2 of the past 32 years. 30 years of living with cancer. Personally, I have always found it difficult to focus on reading a book so find skimming through magazines a better option. I will certainly make a mental note of these suggestions. Brenda has inspired me to resume meditation and hypnosis so, between those choices, and your suggestions I will be home and hose.

  8. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Thank you for your kind words, Chez. Yes waiting rooms don’t seem to have enough material, and the examining room is even worse. The key is to find a method that works for you, and if skimming magazines does it, that’s great!

    I think I’m going to put a post out about how very difficult and excruciating the examining room wait really is, even despite these relaxation techniques. I think people who do not suffer from a medical condition or who do not have a loved one in this position, need to understand how hard waiting for a doctor’s entrance or waiting for medical news is.

    I think meditation and hypnosis are great things to try. Everyone is different, so if they work for you, then I say, go for it!!

    I’m sorry your husband and you have been on such a long cancer journey. Cancer stinks.

  9. nancyspoint had this to say about that:

    Beth, When I get into the exam room, I find it helps me to stand or walk around (ok I pace) in there instead of just sitting on the chair waiting. This used to surprise the doctors when they came in, but now they are used to it. While waiting to get into the exam room, I usually just flip through magazines that require little concentration.

  10. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


    I never thought of pacing, but that sounds like it works for you! It’s so important to choose the method that works best for you.

    All of people’s comments on this posting make me think that sometime in the near future I need to address how terrifying it is for cancer survivors/thrivers to actually wait for and get an exam.

  11. Dennis Pyritz, RN had this to say about that:

    I just found your blog. As a fellow cancer survivor, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Also…Great Blog! You are a credit to the cancer blogging community. I have added you to my blogroll, “Cancer Blogs Lists” with over 1100 other personal cancer blogs at, a cancer networking site featuring a cancer book club, guest blogs, cancer resources, reviews and more.
    If you have not visited before or recently, please stop by. If you agree that the site is a worthwhile resource for those affected by cancer, please consider adding Being Cancer Network to your own blogroll.
    Now that you are listed, you can expect to gain a wider audience for your thoughts and experiences. Being Cancer Network is a place to share and communicate.

    Take care, Dennis (

  12. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


    WOW!! Thank you for the high compliments and your kind words. I’m so glad that you enjoy my blog. I’ve checked out, and see it as so valuable.

    I’m adding it to my blogroll!!

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