Doctor’s Office Etiquette: While You Wait

Apr, 06, 2014


We all know that doctors are often unable to meet their appointment times. The waiting room is called that for a reason. But you can make the wait more pleasant for yourself and others by following a few guidelines.

• Don’t sprawl out on the furniture as if you’re in your own living room. The chairs and couches are there for all to share.

• Watch for assistive devices such as walkers and wheelchairs and move out of the way. Be aware that other people in the waiting room may need help navigating the space and ask if you can be of assistance.

• Talk softly if you’re with a friend or family member and avoid explicit descriptions about medical conditions. Strangers don’t want to hear about your medical conditions.

• Don’t ask the person next to you why they are there. Medical issues are personal, and chattiness in a waiting room is inappropriate.

• No cell phones. This should go without saying, but I will repeat it again and again. Most medical offices post signs forbidding cell phone use. If you must take a call, leave the room to do so.

• Don’t use this occasion to complain about health care in general. If you have a specific problem, ask to speak to the person in the office who can help solve your problem, not in front of a crowded waiting room.

• Don’t steal the magazines. If everyone does that, there won’t be any left for other patients.

• Don’t ask if you can cut the appointments line. You have your given time, so stick to it.

• Have your health coverage ID or insurance information available, along with any other material the office will need to serve you.

• Enter the office with a positive vs. negative attitude. You’re likely to get better service with a smile than a frown. Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and

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