How to Have a Pleasant
Waiting Room Experience

Sick Man at Doctor's Office

The thought of sitting in a waiting room at your doctor’s office may fill you with dread.  No one likes to wait, especially in an environment that can be frustrating, worrying, and just plain time-consuming.

When waiting rooms (or hospital waiting areas) become crowded, patience runs thin and complaints are contagious.  (Not to mention what you might catch from an uncovered sneeze or cough!)

Next time your visit to the doctor, clinic, or hospital involves a wait, keep these 10 etiquette tips mind.  They may help shorten what otherwise might be a long day.

Waiting Room Etiquette Tips

  1. Arrive early, and prepared.  There is always paperwork to complete.  Allowing time for this step in the process and having your lists, reports, and necessary identification cards with you will keep the queue moving steadily.
  2. If you are going to be late, be sure to phone the doctor’s office to let them know.  When you arrive, it’s best to avoid all of the explanations as to why you are late.  A simple apology will keep things moving along.  But be aware that your tardiness may cause a longer wait.
  3. Be observant of posted rules in the office.  No cell phone use in the reception area is usually one of them.  If cell phones are on, be sure they are on silent. If a phone call is necessary, leave the waiting room area. Privacy for all is the undergirding principle!
  4. Bring something to read or to entertain yourself that doesn’t involve sound.  But avoid spreading out with papers, computer, and iPad if you intend to do a little work.  If you decide to read one of the office magazines, resist tearing out a page or two to read later.
  5. Unless you have a very long wait ahead of you, skip the music and earbuds.  It will be difficult to get your attention when a staff person calls your name, announces that it’s your turn to go into the office, or move to a different location.
  6. If you have children with you, discuss the waiting protocol with them beforehand so they know what to expect (and what is expected of them).  Bring something to keep children quietly occupied.  Remind them to have their “inside” voices turned on.
  7. Don’t bring food.  If you need to have a snack, eat in the cafeteria or away from other patients and people waiting.
  8. Polite conversation with others waiting is fine, but be mindful of any hesitation to engage.  You never know what someone is experiencing, and he/she may not be in the mood for conversation.  Refrain from expressing curiosity about their, or family member's, medical conditions.
  9. If things aren’t running smoothly or as you expected, your patience will add to the general good.  Be polite to staff.  It will help make everyone’s day easier!
  10. Be considerate of others.  Putting a magazine back after you read it, or helping a person who may have difficulty opening a door, are just mindful things to do.

Choosing respectful behavior in a waiting room adds to everyone’s comfort level.  This is one place where people are seated in the same vicinity, but sociality and friendliness are best expressed silently, patiently, and with compassion.


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