On Mother’s Day weekend, I met a bully. I had been sick for several days, and my cough had gotten so bad that I feared, with my history of asthma, that I may have pneumonia. I drove myself to Urgent Care the day before Mother’s Day and was treated by the rudest, most disrespectful physician I have ever met. Normally I feel relieved when I am being treated by a woman, but this woman lacked the bedside manner, compassion, and common courtesy I have come to associate with female doctors.
I sat in the waiting room, exhausted and unfocused, attempting to fill out the intake forms to the best of my ability. I’d left my husband home with our two young daughters, and even driving ten minutes to the office had drained all my energy. When the nurse tested my breathing, it was determined that I was only breathing at 50% capacity- no wonder I felt so awful.
After the doctor examined me, I had the audacity to ask for further clarification about my diagnosis, and she snapped at me and made me feel like a complete idiot. After receiving a breathing treatment and steroid shot, she returned to the office to explain the medications she would be prescribing. She named the antibiotic, and all of a sudden it dawned on me that I’d had an unpleasant reaction– although not an allergic one– to that medication. Feeling sheepish, I said, “I think I may have had a reaction to that medication years ago.”
Raising her eyebrows and glaring at me, she replied, “And I think maybe you didn’t write that on your form,” her voice dripping with contempt.
To my great mortification, I began to cry in her office. I blubbered, “I’m sorry, I honestly had just forgotten about it. It’s been years and I hadn’t even thought about it until you mentioned it.” Feeling outraged that I’d been reduced to undignified tears, I blurted, “Seriously, lady?”
“Lady? Not lady,” she barked at me.
“I am a grown woman, and I don’t appreciate being yelled at for simply forgetting something. I am sick and exhausted and doing the best I can! I have two little girls at home,” I sobbed.
When she retorted that she, too, was doing the “best she could,” I wanted to laugh. While she attempted to backpedal slightly, she denied having yelled at me and never apologized for her atrocious treatment of me; in fact, she later spoke harshly again to me, rebuking me for having not come in sooner, although I’d come in within 12 hours of feeling poorly.
I left her office shaking and still crying, and when I returned home I immediately wrote a review of her practice online, and discovered several other reviews patients had left about her specifically from her former urgent care office. They said things like,
- I asked her if this cough medicine would help me sleep…(my question) made her flip! She raised her voice and said “I cannot prescribe you sleeping medication!” I told her she wasn’t answering my question which made her blow up even more. I told her I had never in my life have a doctor yell at me (keep in mind I’m in like 4 pairs of pants and 3 jackets and still shivering and can barely speak since my throat hurt so much). She said “Don’t you question me boy, I’m a damn good doctor!”
- The office staff was very friendly, but the trouble is with Dr. (I am respectfully deleting her name). This woman truly has no business being in the medical profession! This person doesn’t listen to anything the patient says and is extremely rude.
- Absolutely unprofessional and rude. I will never ever visit this place again. Dr. *** was horrible and upsetting to me.
- I’ve never experienced such unprofessionalism in the health world in the United States or elsewhere. This was an outrage. She made me feel so humiliated and belittled and I just can’t stop crying, it was a horrible experience, and I never been so harrassed like that at a Doctor’s office.
So apparently, it’s not just me.
This is the letter I mailed to the physician. I also mailed a copy to the office manager at her practice, along with highlighted copies of the above reviews.
Dear Dr. (#^%*$),
This is Stephanie Sprenger, the woman whom you made cry in your office Saturday afternoon. First of all, I’d like to thank you for an aggressive, proactive treatment plan. I appreciate you taking my illness and symptoms so seriously, and I’m certain I will feel better soon.
That being said, I have never been treated so rudely and with such disrespect by a medical professional in my entire life. When I initially asked you what was causing my symptoms and you barked, “I already told you!” I should have known that your bedside manner would leave something to be desired. However, when I neglected to indicate a medication I’d had a minor, not allergic, reaction to on my intake sheet, you crossed the line. “I think I may have had a reaction to that once,” I said, attempting to prevent another unfortunate experience. “I think you didn’t write that in on your sheet,” you sneered sarcastically, with a coldness and contempt in your voice that shocked me.
I hadn’t taken the medication you referred to in years, and with my depleted condition and fatigue, I had simply forgotten about it until you mentioned it. It was an honest mistake, and to react with anger and by making me feel stupid was simply cruel. Make no mistake- it was your treatment of me in that moment that brought me to tears.
You were not happy with me when I called you “lady” and told you I didn’t appreciate being chastised and could not believe you had just spoken to me that way, but guess what? If you want to be treated with respect, doctor, you’d better earn it first. There is no cause for sarcasm, hostility, and condescension when dealing with patients. I am 35 years old, and I will not stand for someone, physician or otherwise, treating me that way.
You also proceeded to scold me for not coming in sooner, when I had come in within 24 hours of feeling poorly, not wanting to overreact and come in before it was necessary. I’m sure you have worked with patients who have put off coming to see a doctor until they were on death’s doorstep- no need to chastise a patient who was clearly taking her health seriously.
Again, I appreciate your medical approach to my illness, however, you would benefit from rethinking the way you interact with patients and improving your bedside manner. It is absolutely unacceptable for you to treat people the way you treated me Saturday afternoon- you made me cry. Please consider adding some compassion and respect to your list of skills. Because of your rudeness, my family and I will most definitely not be returning to your office.
So many parents are trying to stamp out bullying in their children’s schools. We teach our children that bullying is unacceptable; schools implement zero tolerance policies; we practice confrontation techniques with our children in the hopes that they will avoid being victimized. How can we teach our children to stand up to bullies if we ourselves are not doing the same thing?
Even adults encounter bullies such as this doctor in our daily lives. I don’t care if you are a physician, a teacher, a bus driver, a politician, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company- bullying is not acceptable. And it likely indicates a deeply rooted insecurity that never quite got resolved in childhood. Attempting to gain power by belittling other adults with condescension and cruelty will not make these feelings go away. Find a good therapist instead of unleashing your childhood issues and feelings of inadequacy on others.
If you have been bullied by a medical professional- I urge you- speak out. Write letters. Write reviews. Contact administrators, board members, supervising staff members. Do not let this type of treatment go unreported. You have a voice, and it matters.
And to the doctor who thought it was acceptable to speak so cruelly to an already miserable woman: next time, think a little bit harder about your choice of words. You never know when your patient might be a blogger with a penchant for writing strongly-worded letters.
TOO RIGHT! Sorry you got treated so crappily, but HUGE respect to you for your letter, and for standing up for yourself. Bravo.
I hope you feel better soon.
I do think we really need to talk more about adults bullying. Where are the children learning it anyway???? Thanks Stephanie for speaking up. Sorry that happened to you. Happy Mothers Day! Patti
This happened to me not too long ago. I, like you, was so astonished by the treatment that my reaction was one of delay. Unfortunately I did not make that next step to write a review or complaint. Thank you for sharing your story and your courage in doing so. Perhaps if God forbid it happen to me again I will as well.
Bravo!!! I really admire you Stephanie. I have left multiple doctor’s for similar reasons, although not abusive like yours, but I never had the guts to write a letter. You are an awesome, strong, woman, whom I hope is going to make some serious changes for people who don’t realize doctor’s work for their patients!
You go, Stephanie! I hope that doctor takes your letter to heart. I also hope that writing it was a little cathartic for you – I would be seething for days. And feel better soon!
Hi, I don’t know you, but just reading your description of that doctor made me very angry. Isn’t bedside manner a big part of being a doctor? Did she think she was a real-life version of House? Good for you for standing up to her. I hope you feel better soon.
This is outrageous! The amount of bullying and overall high school behavior that still occurs among adults amazes me. These kinds of people are everywhere…they can be your boss, your doctor, or a member of your kid’s new playgroup. This woman should be ashamed of herself, but I find with people like this, they always justify and make excuses for their bad behaviors. That’s why they continue to remain petty bullies. I am sorry that this happened to you.
What an A-hole. It makes me wonder what her story is. How does someone grow up and think it is okay to treat people that way – and customers specifically. Even if you are an a-hole to those close to you, don’t we all learn that you have to suck it up and be nice to customers or get fired?? Geez! I’m glad you wrote a letter!
Oh my goodness that is horrific! I totally would’ve cried too. I think you handled it with a ton of grace despite being upset, because I am betting most times her demeanor silences her patients – and you weren’t silenced in the moment or afterward. I hope some action is taken because of your well written words. And I hope you feel better soon!
First of all, I am sorry you had such a rotten experience. Truly rotten and too truly you were in the right in the situation. I am so impressed that you took the time to write a letter. I agree with you that is our right and our duty to speak up to bullies, and you did it by not being a bully in return, but by being upright and professional. Good for you! I hope your letter allows changes to be made! And I hope you feel better soon!
Ugh. My husband is a Physician Assistant, and we’re all too familiar with the fact that doctors come in all types…many are simply jerks. But, I bet that working in an urgent care clinic is the only job she can get because of her horrible bedside manner. Sorry for such an awful experience. Next time, ask to see a PA if they have one, I find that they are just as knowledgeable and usually aren’t jerks and take more time and care for their patients. But, I’m also a little biased. 😉
Hope you feel better soon!!
SO glad you wrote the letter and sent it the office. I think so many people report things online (Facebook and twitter) but do not actually put their words in a place where it could do the most good which is AT those places of business. I CANNOT believe how rude she was to you and apparently to others. So sorry this happened to you! Good for you for standing up to a bully!
WOW. This is just SO not right!!! I am actually glad you saw all those complaints to confirm even more for you what a horrible person and physician this woman must be. Oh Stephanie… I can only imagine how draining this trip must have been!! You already felt like total CRAP and you were weak and just trying to get help/medicine/care… and instead you got bullied and HUGELY offensive and bordering on abusive behavior from the person who was supposed to make you feel BETTER.
Just completely awful.
They need to fire her ass. STAT.
You rock for complaining because I cannot BELIEVE that you were treated so horribly. It’s not right while you were feeling like absolute crap :(. It wouldn’t be right if you were feeling really good and just worried about something. Doctors are supposed to help.
It’s so just wrong. Wrong on every level. Hugs to you and I so help you are feeling better, and huge hugs to you on Crappy Mother’s Day, sweets. xo
As I was reading this my jaw kept falling more open. I have never ever heard of such a thing. Honestly, I think you were more of a LADY than I would have been. I would contact the local AMA, as well. She belongs in a lab, not treating patients face-to-face! I hope you’re feeling better!
It’s clear to me that this woman is a very unhappy person. Maybe she sees herself being somewhere else other than an urgent care. She is a classic example of a physician who has been hardened from working with “the public.” I hear it a lot from people I know in the medical profession. They are tired of seeing people who don’t care about their health coming in and wanting some miracle cure for conditions that they should be taking care of in the first place. It should have been very clear to her that you were not that kind of person. That said, though, if you’re going to work with “the public” you have to love it and treat all people with respect and dignity no matter what their circumstance. I’m sorry you had that experience, but good for you for not only saying something to her, but following up as well. People like that have no business doing what they do. I don’t care if she has her MD or not. Feel better soon, and never go back there!!
Good for you for speaking up! I had what I thought was an allergic reaction to Novocaine a few years ago, and went immediately to the Urgent Care center. Not only did they make me wait around for over an hour (as I was freaking out), but the doctor (a young man) pretty much told me I was crazy and made me feel stupid, saying this was a typical reaction to the meds. (Red, itchy face is normal? OK.) I haven’t been back to an Urgent Care since.
PS: Hope you feel better soon!
You are SUCH a good person to even compliment her in the letter, Steph. Seriously. She doesn’t deserve a shred of your decent heart, but good for you for being the bigger, better LADY. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
I hope someone takes action against this bully. Maybe she wasn’t hugged enough as a kid? Whatever the reason, she’s a real bitch. There. I feel better.
Wow, I’ve never experienced treatment like this from a doctor before but I imagine I’d react the same way. Good for you for standing up for yourself with the letters. xo
Stephanie, I have been in a similar scenario, except it was when I took Emma to urgent care late on a Saturday night over a year ago, when her then pediatrician the day before had misdiagnosed her with a bad cold. By the time I got her to urgent care (of course when no doctors would have office hours other then urgent care), she was running over 104 fever. Turns out she had RSV pneumonia, but only before she was diagnosed by the urgent care doctor was folded and yelled at by the oc call doctor for why I didn’t give her a full dose of motrin instead of a half. Emma is underweight and in my reasoning was scared, I hadn’t given her the last dose before the 6 hour make and might overdoes her with too much medicine. Of course, we waited over an hour to be seen, my husband needed to use the rest room and when the doctor walked into the room, so me, no makeup and sweat pants. I think she thought I was a young, unwed mother and an idiot. Seriously, once Kevin entered the room her attitude changed completely. Totally not right and so unprofessional. So, yes I have sadly been there and sorry you had to go through anything like this. Perfect letter by the way and couldn’t agree with the essence, tone and everything you said.
I am sooo glad you wrote that letter and it was perfect! I can definitely relate to this, as I had a similar experience not that long ago with my son’s dermatologist. I wasn’t bullied like you most definitely were, but she NEVER returned any of my calls and only let me deal with her office staff, who were basically clueless. She put me through the ringer just to obtain a prescription for accutane for my son’s acne. It took TWO months until I finally had the prescription for my son, all because of her unprofessional behavior. She and I actually had it out in her office (yelling) and we were about to part ways, but it had taken me so long to get the damn Rx that we “made up” for the sake of my son so that I didn’t have to start the process all over again with another doctor. AND, she did all this while knowing I had another child undergoing chemotherapy and was under a tremendous amount of stress. When I went online to look at her reviews — same thing that you found — very low ratings across the board. I’ve learned my lesson to look at the reviews before visiting any doctor from now on. I’m so glad you stuck up for yourself…once my son is finished taking the accutane, I may do the same thing or at the very least, add to her poor reviews – you’ve inspired me. 🙂
I’m proud of you.
No one should treat you that way regardless of their profession. The medical profession is supposed to show compassion and empathy and support and education…so sad that you had to deal with her. xoxo
I am so sorry this happened to you, but yay for standing up for yourself. I’ve been bullied by doctors on several occasions and it is awful.
I’m sorry that happened to you but I am glad you stood up for yourself. I remember being chastised by a doctor when I was in college. I was too hurt to say anything back, but I told the nurse everything & she totally sided with me. I think it’s important for us to stand up for ourselves. Growing up, I was taught to be meek & turn the other cheek but that doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
I am so glad you wrote the letter you did, it is perfect! Her behavior was so out of bounds, I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I love that you checked her out and found that other patients had experienced the same treatment. Apparently she just wasn’t having a bad day. (Not that that would have been an excuse, at all). Good for you for standing up for yourself. I hope you feel better soon!!!
I absolutely agree that there is no reason on this green earth for you. To have been treated this way. Obviously it wasn’t “just a bad day” if there are multiple bad reviews of her. That said, keep in mind that there is a real burn out issue in primary care in the US. There is pressure to see more and more patients but to document on the chart in exquisite detail every word exchanged, all kinds of extraneous stuff that the govt needs and insurance companies require for “quality indicators.” I, too, have had bad days, but always regret it and apologize. I think physicians need to take acting lessons, to learn how to ACT like a doctor even when they’re not feeling it. I try to leave all my personal crap outside the exam room door. I try to shrug it off as I open the door, paste a smile on, and make the person feel like they are my only concern.
I have a blog post on a day in the life, also explaining the reams of paper work we go through daily, the phone calls, emails, meetings for committees required by hospitals, On going education, raging at the insurance companies to get coverage for meds our patients need. Anyway, thought a post from the “inside” might balance the comments a little. Again, I, on behalf of all the docs who give a damn, apologize for your awful experience.
I can imagine how truly overwhelming it is to be a doctor. I have worked with dozens in my life, and they have all seemed to be at least handling their stress adequately- I literally have never been treated that way before, which I suppose makes me lucky. On this particular occasion, I’m relieved to hear it wasn’t just a bad day- there were literally no other patients in the office that afternoon, tensions seemed low, and it is clear from the other patient comments that this is that doctor’s MO. Thanks so much for weighing in- I appreciate your comment!
That stinks. I was thinking ‘maybe she was having a very bad day’ but if all those other people had the same experience, you’re exactly right. She needs to work on her bedside manner. Plain & simple. If no one ever gave her feedback, she would probably only get worse so good for you for writing that very nicely worded letter. You are much more polite than I. My reaction would not have been so nice 🙂 Hope you’re feeling better!
It sounds like with all this feedback, at least this doctor will start thinking about how her words and cruel attitude affect people.
I sorry you don’t feel well. No body likes to be bullied so I’m really surprised (and saddened) it’s such a wide spread phenomenon. You are WAY more polite than I would have been as well…although you get more out of things when you’re polite. 😉
Please forgive me for not replying to each comment- I am still feeling so sick and awful! Just know that your comments meant the world to me! I really appreciate all your support and encouragement. Thank you all SO much for supporting me with this!
Good for you for speaking out. I wish I’d done the same. I had two incidents with my son when he was very young and would stop breathing, turn blue and pass out. The doctors could not figure out what was causing it and it was happening daily…every time it happened I thought I was going to lose him. We were in and out of doctors offices and hospitals (ER and he was admitted as well). One ER doctor told me my son was just throwing a temper tantrum and holding his breath (not), another refused to call my son’s doctors practice because they weren’t on call (I lost it, because that was the 2nd time in the ER that day), and his neurologist when I called because they cancelled a Monday appt late Friday afternoon because they messed up on the anthesiologist (an procedure that we’d waited a month for), screamed at me for calling her after hours on a Friday and said we’d just have to wait another month and it wasn’t her fault. I promptly hung up the phone, called our pediatrician and said to refer us to someone else because she couldn’t care less if my son lived or died. How can you be so callous and unfeeling if you’re a pediatic neurologist? I wish I’d written a letter about her. Thankfully, my son had a food allergy and a blood disorder…he is fine today, now a healthy teenager. But those were scary days for us and I didn’t appreciate the treatment I got from a few doctors. Most were wonderful, but the ones I described? Very uncaring.
Rude doctors are no good! No one should make you feel like that. When I sought help for my PPD, my doctor actually accused me of drug seeking. And this was my regular physician! So I can relate to this story. Good for you for speaking out about it!
Well done, this is a an external sign of her internal unhappiness, and I don’t try to find her an excuse because there is no excuse for such an acting.
Such a shame, she is wasting her time in life, and she could be in a position wher she could get so much back! but unfurtuatly if you don’t give it is hard to get back…
Don’t waste anymore energy on her.
Have a great day.
Her behavior is absolutely INSANE and COMPLETELY inappropriate. I’m so glad you spoke out! Have you received a response?
I am just so incredibly sorry Stephanie. That is absolutely outrageous and so totally unprofessional. I am really glad you followed up with a letter…this sort of behavior should not be ignored.-Ashley
So glad you didn’t just sit back and take her abuse. This “medical professional” needs to work on her bedside manner. I hope she learns a lesson from this; clearly she picked on the wrong person this time . Would love to hear the update.
This is a beautiful article. You have expressed yourself wonderfully. We probably all have been bullied at some point in our adult lives, and kudos to you for doing something about it instead of quietly grumbling at home.
Thankfully, times are changing. We live in an age now when people are less and less likely to get away with such behavior. In the old days, a few people who you talked to would find out about this doctor. Now, thanks to the interwebs, everyone in this doctor’s area can find out how she treats people. This kind of exposure changes behavior. It’s too bad it hasn’t changed hers yet.
Thank you so much for that wonderful comment, Peter. Much appreciated!
A letter to your doctor? I have wanted to do something like that to many people in my life and I write it and never send it. However, I wish I did. People need to understand when they are being inappropriate, mean and rude!
In general, doctors need better sensitivity training in medical school. But it looks like you just had the misfortune to run into a doc with some severe anger issues. Well done you for standing up for yourself … and alerting the practice manager.
In college, a bad case of laryngitis and pain in the throat sent me to Health Services. I filled out the forms and went into the examining room when I was called. The elderly male physician asked me to describe my symptoms — I said 4 words when he shouted loudly SHUT UP! He told me to stand over a pot of boiling water at home and breath the vapor. I went somewhere else for help. Now, student health insurance is required by the college and so expensive, it keeps some people from enrolling in the college. Not very good on any aspect.
I hope you’re feeling better by now! I’m so glad you wrote and sent the letter and didn’t just let the whole thing go. No one should have to put up with that kind of abuse. I once had an orthodontist read me the riot act because I went for a second opinion for a very invasive oral surgery he thought my young child needed. If anyone mentions surgery, I always get a second opinion, especially if it’s for my child. No one should bully a parent for that.
Let me just start out by thanking you so much for this post. I have been going to a doctor for 12 years and lately she has literally walked out of the office with me crying and never even acknowledged how upset I am. I have lupus and of course most of the time when I go to the doctor I am feeling sick and vulnerable. I am not able to change doctors because the travel time to a new doctor would stress me out even more. I totally feel like I am being bullied. I have no idea how to handle this situation because I am so dependent on her. I so wish doctor’s offices had to be evaluated every six months and would be graded on how their patients were treated. Right now we have so little to say on how we are treated by our doctors and yet we still have to pay for our visit. Reading your post helped me realize that it is nothing that I am doing wrong but now I able to see no matter how old I get I still have to deal with bullies.
I have never had a decent female docter where I currently live. Ever. I went out of my way to get a male dr, the closest is 30 minutes away, because the urgent care wouldn’t give me medicine for Lymes. They scheduled the bloodwork but not the medicine. Anyway, this male dr 30 minutes away is quite the piece of work too. Unneccesarry bloodwork, trying to scare me back into the office because of the ‘results’, etc. Sorry dude, I am not paying for your third house!! I am fat because I am nursing a baby and am hungry. My medical problem is FOOD. Keep your tests, good day! Ha!
I very recently had an experience with a doctor that fell into the category of actual emotional abuse. I had been seeing her for over a year and a half with very mixed feelings about her behavior. I had little choice in picking her since she was one of the few psychiatrists in my county accepting new patients. I quickly came to figure out why she had openings. She was cold, domineering and usually dismissive of my opinions. Definetly a doctor with a god complex.
I reached my boiling over point when she neglected to call in a regular medication I needed and her office did not respond to my calls for over a week and a half. It was a necessary medication and could have dramatically affected my health. So I wrote a Yelp review on her. It was a one star review and I discussed her general demeanor and lack of compassion. The review joined many other negative reviews.
I began looking for another doctor immediately but of course I encountered two month waits for initial appointments. I needed a medication refill before then so I went to see her again.
Two minutes into the appointment she began berating me about my review, telling me I was horrible and mean and completely ungrateful of how she’d helped me. She said she’d made one little mistake and didn’t deserve my over the top response. She also raged about how this was her business and she didn’t have to take this kind of abuse.
I was terrified she wasn’t going to refill my prescription and did not say a word to defend myself.
In the end she did refill it but I left the office shaking and sobbing.
I didn’t even know it was ethical to confront a patient about a negative review. I work in customer service and when we receive a negative legitimate review, we apologize.
It was my scariest doctors appointment ever and my rage is still so strong I will be filing a complaint with the medical board.
My experiance with my doctor was horrible. He yelled at me for 7 min infront of my 10 yr old daughter who was smart enought to record it on her phone he threatend me twice to in his words throw me out of his office for asking a question. And when i got upset all of a sudden i needed therapy asap i must have sever depressive disorder. Hes told me that before when i question him about a diagnosis he gave me. I feel like he dose that to cover his ass incase i cause issues for him. This is a doctor i saw from 1999 to 2003 then back to him just a year ago. Before he was a amazing dr i trusted very much. Now hes changed . But since tha5 day oct 21 2015 ive neve4 seen a dr again. Idk whats wrong with me i make appointments even with a new dr then time to go i just cant go i get very upset and cancel. Idk what to do anymore