Article Date: 10/1/2004

lessons learned
All-Time FavoritesThings Could Be Worse?
Having one of those days? You're not the only one.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when:


I'm sure you suffer from some rotten days in practice when everything seems to go wrong. One of the main causes is obstreperous and goof-ball patients. If it's any consolation, you're not alone. Not only do other O.D.s suffer the same problem, but other healthcare professionals may even have it worse.

Healthcare hell

► A local pediatrician was awakened by a phone call at 3:00 a.m. The caller identified herself and said, "My child has a fever. What should I do?"

"Is your child a patient of mine?" said my pediatrician friend, not recognizing the caller's name.

"Oh, no! We go to Dr. Starr but we didn't want to disturb him at this hour!"

► "Why haven't you gone to your regular doctor who originally treated this condition?" my ER physician friend told me he asked a patient.

"Because I'd have to pay him," was the reply. (Think you have collection problems? He collects but 40% of his fees.)

► A dentist friend met his match in a new patient when he was new in practice. After the patient complained about how much he was being charged for only a couple of hours' work, my dentist friend said, "You're not paying me just for how many hours I spent with you, but also for all my expenses from dental school, expensive equipment, office rent, employees, etc."

"All by myself?!" was the patient's plaintive reply.

My cross in life to bear

Maybe the strangest patient I remember in my practice was an accountant, Mr. Cooper. I had been in practice only a couple of months when he made an appointment with me.

"I've been to every eye doctor in town and none of them have been able to prescribe and fit eyeglasses for me that are satisfactory," he told me.

"Aha! What an opportunity," I said to myself. "I shall render the skills of my modern optometric education, and he will go forth and spread the word throughout the land of how I was the only one able to solve his problem."

My glee was short-lived. I soon discovered his problem was that he never felt like his glasses fit him properly, and thus wanted to spend hours at the adjusting table. Worse, he expected me to do these often half-hour sessions, which I endured because I wasn't all that busy in my new practice anyway.

The climax came at the end of about the tenth such session. Mr. Cooper fiddled with his glasses for a few minutes after I had adjusted them, and then said, "I believe you finally almost have it right. It should be acceptable if you'll move the right lens about the width of a cigarette paper to the left."

Fortunately, a new optometrist came to town shortly thereafter. (I made no comment when he boasted to me that Mr. Cooper was now his patient.)

Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA.  He's also a past editor of OM. Contact him at


Optometric Management, Issue: October 2004