How many receptionists does it take to make a doctor’s appointment?

Talking on the phone has never been one of my favorite activities. In Spanish, even less so. But due to a combination of having to call a lot of people for my job and simply the process of growing up and realizing that life is filled with things that you don’t necessarily like to do, but have to do, I’ve slowly been getting over it.

However, that doesn’t mean that I still don’t occasionally have phone call adventures. Once, while on a work phone call, I was explaining a simple procedure to a woman, and she asked me what language I was speaking and then insisted on passing me over to talk to her husband because she didn’t understand me. People who think they are smart will often state “You aren’t Chilean” while we are talking, even if that has nothing to do AT ALL with the conversation we’re having. Yes, I have an accent, but I speak Spanish well and if you can understand what I’m saying, shouldn’t that be enough?

Anyway, you might have noticed that I took a slight hiatus from blogging. I had surgery about 10 days ago. I’m fine, and am home on licencia médica which means that my health insurance company will pay my salary for the twenty days that I miss of work while I am recovering from the operation. To make it even better, my mom is here taking care of me! 🙂

So yesterday I had to call the clinic where I had surgery to schedule the post-op appointment with my surgeon. Since the doctor is mainly a surgeon (and an excellent one, at that), he only sees patients three days a week in the afternoon, and therefore all of his appointments are taken up until the second week of October. But he told me to ask for a sobrecupo, or in other words, an extra appointment for a day when he is filled up.

I called the clinic, and specifically called the number that appears for reservas médicas, or medical appointments. You would think that making a post-op appointment would be easy. But no, we are in Chile, where things are not always as easy as they would seem. This is how it went…

I explained to the person who answered that I needed an appointment with Dr. P. on such-and-such a day. I mentioned the word sobrecupo. She told me to hold, but didn’t tell me that someone else would answer the phone. Apparently she had transferred me to Dr. P.’s department. I told the secretary that I needed an appointment with my doctor, but didn’t say the word sobrecupo (that was going to be my next sentence) but she told me to hold and transferred me back to the general appointment schedulers (the ones I had just talked to). I explained once again what I needed, specifying sobrecupo. The woman explained that they weren’t authorized to schedule sobrecupos so that I would need to talk directly with Dr. P.’s department. I told her that I had, but they had transferred me back here. She insisted that I talk with them, and transferred me back.

This time, I think the same woman answered. So before she could put me on hold and transfer me again, I quickly blurted out that I needed an appointment with Dr. P. and that it was a sobrecupo on the specified date. Something got lost in translation and she put me on hold again and transferred me to ecografía, the ultrasound department. I explained to the confused ultrasound secretary what I wanted and asked her to please transfer me BACK to Dr. P.’s department. She did. Then I told the secretary to PLEASE not put me on hold until she had heard in detail what I needed, because I was sick of being transferred back and forth.

This would probably be a good time to mention that the phone connection was terrible (due to no fault of my own, I had full bars) and every time anyone talked I had to say “Excuse me? Come again? I can’t hear you!”

So finally this woman transferred me to Dr. P’s secretary. Thank goodness. I told her what I needed, a sobrecupo on such and such a date. I told her I was a post-op patient of Dr. P.’s

“I’m sorry,” she told me. “I’m not authorized to schedule any sobrecupos because Dr. P. is on vacation.”

By this time I was super frustrated, but tried to maintain my calm.

“I know,” I told her, “He’s in Algarrobo, he told me last week when he AUTHORIZED ME TO ASK FOR A SOBRECUPO.”

“Ohhhh!” She said, “Well that’s different, if the doctor authorized you…”

Um, hello. Do people commonly call up and ask for sobrecupos on their own? Do they self-authorize themselves to be deemed important enough to see the doctor before the people who have made appointments? Somehow, I think not. But you never know, it could happen.

So then you would think I was in the clear, ready to go. But no. Of course the secretary didn’t understand my RUT (Chilean ID no) because it is full of 3’s and 6’s which sound very similar in Spanish, more so over the phone. She couldn’t get my RUT to work because she had screwed up all the 3’s and 6’s. So she asked for my last name. I gave it to her. She asked for my second last name. I told her I didn’t have one.

“Oh, then I can’t look you up in the system if you don’t have a second last name,” she replied, “Are you sure you’ve seen Dr. P. before?”

“Yes,” I replied, “HE OPERATED ON ME LAST WEEK.”

Then I repeated my RUT another six times until she had it right.

“Oh!! You’re Abigail, the gringa he operated on last week!” she said, “Why didn’t you just say so? Next Tuesday at 5 the doctor can see you.”

So maybe the lesson from all this is just to introduce myself as “Abigail, the gringa” every time I have to make a phone call. 😛


10 thoughts on “How many receptionists does it take to make a doctor’s appointment?

  1. Hi! I just recently found your blog. I am also a gring living in Chile and believe it or not I tend to introduce myself on the phone as Lorena the gringa when making hair appoints or stuff like that. jajajaja it actually works.

    • Haha thanks for commenting! I might just have to try that…although I feel like from my accent and name it should be kind of obvious that I’m a gringa…:P

  2. Glad you’re feeling well enough to tell the story, and YES, you absolutely should start every phone call with “This is Avigayehl the gringa.” I’m waiting for my phone to ring as we speak. Can we go on a field trip sometime next week? How’s the energy level over at casa abby and her mom of the one last name each?

    • Let’s go on a field trip!! I’m starting to get more energy and am feeling way cooped up. In fact I have so much energy that I’m cleaning the bathroom…crazy, right?

  3. Abigail the Gringa. Hahahaha. Awww, sorry to laugh but it really did make me giggle.

    I work mostly over the phone at the moment and this is *exactly* why I don’t just transfer people. I ring through to the other department myself and explain to them what the customer wants before transferring them because I know how frustrating it is to be transferred all over the place. (How the heck did you end up in the ultrasound department?)

    • I think the Chilean receptionists at my clinic could learn a thing or two from you, Ceri! And I have NO idea how I ended up in the ultrasound department. “Sobrecupo” sounds nothing like “ecotomografia” (ultrasound)….

  4. OMG!!!! hahahahaha!! This is hilarious!!. This could only happen to you, hahaha!!. Is one of your funniest stories. haha!! I can’t stop laughing, haha!!

  5. Pingback: Bedside Manner « Abby's Line

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