Your Doctor’s Office Environment

Posted on: September 30th, 2009 by
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Before you ever meet your or your loved one’s doctor, look around. 

No, I mean literally look — at the office environment. 

This can help you determine whether the doctor, who is a staff member at that office, is someone you want as your or a loved one’s caregiver.

If you have been reading my recent postings, then you’ll know that my child’s first pediatrician was a dud. A real stick-in-the-mud dud. 

Today was my daughter’s first appointment with a real pediatrician who was fabulous!! I will extol her virtues in a future posting, but right now, suffice it to say — I hit gold.

So I started thinking about the two doctors I used, and one of many striking differences between them was each physician’s office environment. For ease, let’s just call the bad doctor Dr. Lazy and the great doctor Dr. Gold. These two doctors’ office areas were so different, and now that I reflect back on my visits, as well as all my appointments past, I realize a doctor’s environment reflects the quality of medical care you most likely will receive. 

For those doctors who are reading this: If you don’t have your ducks in a row….well then you suck as a doctor. 

Following is a comparative analysis of both pediatricians’ environments.

Dr. Lazy’s Office
When I first walked in, I was shocked. Patients were yelling or talking loudly, staff looked disheveled and were nasty to patients, staff treated patients as if they were inferior, and all people — staff and patients — were in a permanent state of chaos. 

I was further shocked to find that even though this was a pediatrician’s office, there were almost no kid-friendly items: no pretty things, no cartoons on a TV — just a couple of computers for older kids.

The kids were slinging it out over who was to use the computer next. And no adults intervened.
There was one book: for recipes. Um, yeah, that’s really going to make a kid’s day. I should’ve started cooking up a scheme to get out of there, but I didn’t.

The doctor was running late because he was overbooked because he had a huge reputation because he is some fancy Dr.-of-International-Children whom everybody there seemed to love. I also noticed that many of the patients were poor and loved him for sliding his pay scale back, something only heard of through TV doctors like Doc. Baker on Little House on the Prairie. I wonder if Dr. Lazy accepted payments of chickens or eggs (I don’t know which came first) instead of money.

But when it came to ME, I was the goose who laid the golden egg. See, fees weren’t waived for me because I must be rich because I adopted from China and paid tons of money for this.

Anyway, the environment was a swill, it was hot and stuffy there, so dismal looking that I think the roaches there wanted to commit suicide. 

Dr. Gold’s Office

The first thing I noticed was the quiet, orderly environment. No yelling, screaming, insulting. What a relief!!

The second thing I noticed was how beautiful, clean, and kid-friendly the environment was. Separate waiting rooms were all interconnected through one hub where all patients entered to get to the doctor’s office. There was a waiting room for sick children, a separate one for healthy ones, and one for teens. 

Kid-inviting colors reminded me of Disney World. Each little-children’s area had a television with fun cartoons. I LOVED this environment. There was a fish tank, cool little tables and chairs, and couches — all with a variety of colors. Each pediatrician’s office had a comfy couch, instead of an uncomfortable chair, whose colors echoed those in the waiting rooms. 

Just beautiful.

In fact, the environment was so calm and soothing that even I, who get panic attacks at the sight of doctors’ offices, was happy. 

The staff were respectful of the patients and each other. There was real compassion to patients’ needs, and staff were smiling and friendly. They spoke in soft tones and joked with each other. Everyone seemed happy. 

And the environment was clean!! So clean, in fact, that I felt pangs of guilt when I accidentally dropped a Cheerio on the hallway leading into the waiting rooms. I would’ve picked it up anyway, but the environment was so immaculate, I dived on that Cheerio like a centerfielder dives on a ball to make the crucial catch.

One cannot judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to medicine, one can. Next time you go to a doctor’s office — any doctor’s office — check out the physical surroundings and staff. See if the quality of medical care correlates to those surroundings and people.

I’ll bet it does.

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at, and her cat Hemi blogs at Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World’s Strongest Librarian at

She can be contacted at and


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.

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