A Patient Branded me a Racist…During the Holiday Season!

It’s the holiday season, and while we’d all like to believe that this is a time for generosity, compassion, and common courtesy, the reality is that holiday stress leads to rancor, hostility, and knocking over a crippled grandmother with a pacemaker to get to the last Wii at Toys-R-Us. Although the mental health practitioners of the world attempt to help people manage this stress in both the office and online, many people have clearly not taken advantage of that help.

As we’ve seen, clients can become abusive toward their therapists. It’s not very often, however, that I witness – or am the brunt of – a person’s abuse before they actually become a client.

I received a call recently from a woman who needed to have a psychological evaluation prior to weight loss surgery. This evaluation was to take place in my office in the suburbs of New York City, and because of that, I often give detailed directions to the space itself, instead of simply a city address “at the cross of such and such.” Many clients only want to hear the address and utilize their “flawless” navigational systems, but I strongly encourage them to write down a few directions, as the office is not easily seen from the main road. Additionally, the office building itself is a few stories high with separate driveways and parking lots; thus, if a client parks in the wrong lot, he or she will be unable to find the correct suite and will spend a half-hour strolling around the parking area looking for the office directory. This is especially problematic if I am in session when a new client gets lost, as I am unable to pick up the phone to help find me.


Despite my admonitions to the client that he will likely get lost without just one or two brief sentences to jot down, many flat-out refuse or grudgingly (and purportedly) scratch out the basic instructions. After giving the directions, I emphasize the importance to them of attendance and punctuality for an evaluation of this nature. For years, I had no idea why I always had to wait so long at the doctor’s office. I thought they were late because they were playing golf or buying Ferraris or having sex. But then I learned that many physicians will double or even triple book themselves throughout the day because so many people are often late or simply don’t show up at all for their appointments. Physicians don’t want to be sitting around with nothing to do (i.e., not making money), so punctual clients need to sit around to make up for the irresponsible people who don’t treat their appointment times with respect.

Therapists don’t have the luxury of booking appointments that way. We can’t have three people booked for a therapy session and have two people wait if all three happen to show up. One person, one slot. That’s it. If he or she gives the middle finger and no-shows, that’s lost time and income for the clinician.
Normally, when a client is late for therapy, his or her session is still stopped at the scheduled ending time, as the rest of the therapist’s clients need to be seen in a timely manner. For a weight loss surgery evaluation, however, the opportunity to say “we’ll start up with this next time” is not so readily available. The information needed to approve or reject a client for surgery can normally be obtained in one visit, provided that the client is punctual. I often book extra time for an evaluation just in case, but the client is told that if he or she will be significantly late to please call and reschedule for another time.
After going through all of the details with this potential new client and receiving assurances that there would be no difficulty (due to the navigational system), I waited for her to arrive promptly at noon.

11:55 AM: Dr. Rob takes out appropriate forms for evaluation, listens to clock on wall tick while pondering if he should buy new ink toner today or tomorrow.

12:00 PM: Dr. Rob decides that tomorrow would be the appropriate time to buy toner.

12:05 PM: Door to office suite opens, but it’s the mailman with a credit card bill for Dr. Rob.

12:10 PM: The new client calls. She says that she “just left the house, so I’ll be there pretty soon.” Dr. Rob attempts to remind her of the original phone conversation and that the evaluation might need to wait because he has other patients scheduled, but she has already hung up.

12:12 PM: Dr. Rob reviews credit card bill.

12:15 PM: Dr. Rob practices the nearly impossible “rubber pencil” motion.

12:18 PM: Dr. Rob draws stick figure of new patient and begins stabbing the drawing.

12:25: The client calls again to state that she is “almost there,” but that she needs the address again. Dr. Rob gives directions in a haughty tone. Client hangs up without saying thank you or good-bye.

12:30: Imaginary tumbleweed blows across silent office.

12:35: Client calls again, now officially 35 minutes late.

Client: I’m in the parking lot but I can’t find your office. You said it was on what floor again?

Dr. Rob: It’s on the 2nd floor, as we discussed twice now already.

Client: So where is the elevator?

Dr. Rob (exasperated): Ma’am, I told you that there is no elevator, you need to drive your car to the second floor parking lot and come in the front door.

Client: Why is there no elevator?

Dr. Rob: I don’t know, I’m not the architect or building contractor, I’m just the psychologist.

Client: I don’t like the tone of your voice.

Dr. Rob: I apologize, but I’m very frustrated with you right now. You should probably reschedule…

Client: Oh wait, I have another call. Hold on.

Pause for 1.6 minutes.

Client: I’m back.

Dr. Rob: Ma’am, I am going to reschedule you. This is completely unacceptable.

Client: No, I found the suite now, I’ll be there shortly.

Dr. Rob: No, I have another client in less than 30 minutes, and there is no way that we can complete this evaluation in time. You will have to reschedule.

At this point, the client was right outside the door, opening it and walking into the waiting room, screaming into her cell phone.

Client: Goddammit! Who do you think you are?! Oh. (clicks phone shut)

Dr. Rob: You need to reschedule.

Client: I did not come here to be treated this way. You were rude to me on the phone, probably because I’m black.

Dr. Rob: What?! I may have been rude, but not because you are black, but because you don’t respect other people’s time. How would I even know you are black from a phone call?

Client: Because my name is black.

Dr. Rob: Your name isn’t Black, it’s _______.

Client: No, because it sounds black.

Dr. Rob: This is asinine. I do not appreciate being called a racist, and I’d like you to please leave. I will give your surgeon names of other psychologists who can provide the evaluation for you.

Client: Oh I’m leaving, but only because I’m firing you, not because you’ve asked me to. You are disgusting and ugly. Good day.

I’m Ugly?

I got a call a few hours later from the referring surgeon.

“Did you refer to a patient of mine with a racial epithet?”

“I did no such thing!”

“I should hope not,” he said, somewhat suspiciously.

“She accused me of being a racist because I was curt with her, but I had a good reason for doing so.”

“You had a good reason for being a racist?” he asked, dryly.

“No! I had a good reason for being curt. I was not racist.”

“Fine, Dobrenski. Just watch your tongue around my patients. This hospital prides itself on its diversity and I will not have my good name sullied by some shrink. And if you do have your own racial issues, please address those in therapy or whatever you people do to fix those problems. I’d hate to believe I could only send you Aryan patients,” he added, before hanging up, leaving me alone with my credit card bill, having been branded rude and racist.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Holiday Season…I know I am!

(Visited 99 times, 1 visits today)

25 Responses to “A Patient Branded me a Racist…During the Holiday Season!”

  1. DannyMac says:

    As the king of passive aggressive responses, I recommend that you begin rejecting 1 in every 3 referrals from this particular surgeon whether it is warrented or not.

  2. Newshoes says:

    You’re great, they’re short-sighted and I’m amused.

  3. Charles says:

    You should have yelled at him for saying “you people.” That would have been an interesting twist to the conversation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    very funny entry

  5. Amber says:

    Wow! I’ve been having a very pissy could of Christmas shopping in the herd of cows days, but this FINALLY made me relax and laugh!

  6. Tina says:

    You are ugly!

  7. Sean says:

    Mmm, slanderous patients. Fun times.
    DannyMac, a far more evil passive aggressive response would have been if Dr. Rob accepted the client anyways, who, based upon this admittedly limited exchange, has issues with taking responsibility for her actions and could be rejected for the surgery on those grounds.
    It’s a good thing (most) psychologists aren’t evil.

  8. Ah, the race card. As a black man, I’m irritated by the use of it. She was late, unprofessional, and unfortunately, perpetuated the stereotype of black people being late.
    In case you ever experience the race card again:
    http://www.thisjustin.com/2007/06/20/race-flag/
    Dr. Rob note: For the record, tardiness and absenteeism is the same for everyone in my practice, regardless of race, creed, eye color, gender, height, etc…

  9. Rorshak says:

    Ha. That really sucks.

  10. Maggy says:

    Hey Dr. Rob…sorry about that happening to you…not only is it completely embarrassing…but a really low blow. I hope your Christmas gets better and it’s her own damn fault that she was late. Too bad so sad.

  11. Gloria says:

    You should charge the surgeon for that 35 minutes since you were waiting around for his patient.
    But ugh.. the race card. I hate it when people do that. For crying out loud, she left her house 10 minutes AFTER the session was suppose to start!

  12. Robin B says:

    one of your funnier entries, Dr. Rob! Great one!

  13. Wayland says:

    Ugh… This pissed me off for you. At least I’m listening to some pretty great music or I may have thrown my computer out of the window.

  14. Scootah says:

    “She accused me of being a racist because I was curt with her, but I had a good reason for doing so.”
    This was your key mistake.
    What you should have said was
    “When the patient was excessively late, I advised her that she would need to reschedule as she had missed her booking and I had no further time free that day. Her overreaction was significant and she made several groundless accusations. I can’t help but wonder if her anger is healthy.”
    Note – point of empathy for the referrer – I bet she’s been late for his shit, and even if she hasn’t – he knows what it’s like to have his time wasted, avoides the topic of racial tensions – which make everyone uncomfortable and allows him to make the safe assumption that she played the race card as part of a torrent of springeresque abuse, and makes you sound sympathetic to the poor woman’s problems instead of angry about how the rude twat disrespected you.

  15. FrankV says:

    Some people are just idiots who will use whatever excuse they can to divert attention from their shortcomings. Just be thankful you didn’t need to listen to her for the clinical hour.
    Have a merry Christmas, and happy new year!

  16. DocD says:

    Now Dr. Rob, Did I not warn you about surgeons?

  17. Flora says:

    What a low bitch. I’ve also had the race card played on me several times BY THE SAME PERSON a few weeks ago, and it’s just damn silly. All of a sudden, thinking lowly of some people who happen to be black makes you a racist. What a great society we live in.

  18. dram says:

    yep. same thing used to happen to me in middle school, some tiny Indian kid used to nag me for half an hour, then the second I snapped at him I’m a racist who has something against black people…. HE WAS F@#&ING INDIAN!

  19. Thanks for this wonderful post! I really can’t belive it’s almost Christmas. Sants and cookies here I come!

  20. Mel says:

    HAH! You’re not ugly, Dr. Rob.
    You are, as you have called yourself in another post, a sexy therapist.

  21. You could have saved yourself the trouble by having/enforcing a Late/No-Show policy. You may need to augment it to meet any insurance policy charge limitations, but it will save you a headache. This is particularly useful for assessment cases because many times they are one and done, and some people don’t understand skipping a 2-3+ hour assessment is a big deal. Stating your rescheduling policy is also important. I don’t want to come off as rigid, but most people will take advantage of any “grey” area. You can always waive your fee if there are reasons, but you can’t enforce a policy that isn’t there.

  22. ps. It can be very different in a salaried position (I use my No Show time to catch up other work), but if it is per-diem / hourly….there is no way to make up that money.

  23. Emma says:

    People like that lady exist in every race, sex, nationality, etc. If they’re a racial minority, they’ll use the race card. If they’re a woman, they’ll cry sexism. If they’re a man or white, they’ll cry “reverse discrimination” (as if the term even makes sense). Some people just love to play the victim.

  24. Will says:

    I don’t know anything about you on a personal level. We aren’t friends or even acquaintances. Having said that, I will totally beat up that nasty surgeon if he’s mean to you again. You just let me know.

  25. Seviah says:

    I adore you, Rob (I can’t do Doctor Rob), but really, who cares?

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