When NOT to Schedule Doctors’ Appointments and Elective Procedures


No one wants long waits or sub-par medical care.  Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but here are a few inside tips from a nurse who has worked in hospitals and offices for over twenty years.

Don’t schedule anything for the week between Christmas and New Year’s or Spring Break.  Yes, I know, those are the times the kids are out of school and you don’t have to work around school and extracurricular activities, but don’t do it.  Those are the most popular vacation weeks of the year, so everyone who can take them off does, and those who are working are short-handed and grumpy.

The same goes for any big area festivities.  I live in Louisville, and every year I pray no one in my family gets sick Derby Week, especially not Oaks Day, because it’s like pulling teeth to get a lick of work out of anyone in this city when that’s going on.

Halloween.  Unless you have lots of spare time and are really in the Halloween spirit don’t do it.  Everyone’s running late because they’re showing off their own costumes or complimenting other people’s costumes, and I personally have a hard time taking medical advice from someone dressed as The Cat in the Hat.  But there are people who schedule their annual checkups on Halloween every year because they enjoy it, and it does make it easy to remember from year to year.

First is better than last.  Suck it up and get up early.  For the first case or appointment of the day everyone is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (usually thanks to coffee) and they haven’t had a chance to fall behind schedule yet.  Ask any surgery scheduler – the most complicated or high-risk cases in the operating room are always scheduled as the first  case of the day.  That’s when everyone’s at their peak.  If the only thing open is at the end of the day I’d seriously consider waiting a day or two if possible.

The day after a big storm.  Snow storm, ice storm, tornado, whatever.  If it happened the night before no one got a good night’s sleep, a lot of people will be running late, the ones who are there will be working short-staffed because some people won’t be able to make it in – it’s just not ideal.  If’ it’s non-urgent or elective, reschedule.  The night before my third neurosurgery there was a tornado in the area.  It was all anyone could talk about.  I remember counting backwards, going under general anesthesia, praying that these sleep-deprived, distracted people wouldn’t do any damage to my spinal cord or vocal cards.  But I’d waited two months to get on this particular surgeon’s schedule, and I was in a tremendous amount of pain, so there really wasn’t any way I could reschedule.

April Fool’s Day.  I wouldn’t have thought about this one until earlier this week.  I did it to myself, though.  I broke two rules and scheduled John’s routine check-up for Spring Break – on April Fool’s Day.  I thought I’d negated the problem by snagging the first appointment of the day, but no.  The entire office staff was playing a trick on the young doctor coming in that morning.  They let us in, then locked the door back, and kept all the lights off.  They’d all parked their cars across the street.  I filled out all the forms in the dark, so I hope I got them right.  Anyway, long story short, we ended up being there a lot longer than I’d planned.  It was a cute prank and I really liked the doctor, who was new to the practice, so it was all okay, but it did throw off my schedule for the day.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting rescheduling a biopsy, cardiac catheterization, or any other test or procedure that’s time-sensitive.  But if it’s a routine check-up, annual mammogram, or elective procedure take a hard look at your calendar first.  Any scheduling tips that I’ve missed? Just leave them in the comments section to share!  I’m linking up to Mommy Club Solutions.

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