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Patient Called Out By Staff For Trying To Escape Locked Exam Room At Their Doctor’s Office

woman in medical patient gown seated on exam table
The Good Brigade/Getty Images

Getting into a doctor or dentist is getting more and more difficult with medical professional shortages. After the pandemic, a record number left the profession.

Coupled with Baby Boomers now in their twilight years, there just aren’t enough doctors to go around. So making and keeping appointments is critical.

A patient who had two appointments on the same morning wondered if they were in the wrong after they bailed on a doctor’s appointment that was running late. So they turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

UnbalancedDruid asked:

“AITA for trying to open my room door at the doctor’s office?”

The original poster explained:

“I just had an embarrassing situation happen at my doctor’s office just now, and I need to know AITA?”

“I had a doctor’s appointment today at 10am and an urgent dentist appointment at 11:30am. My dentist is located about 45 minutes from where my doctor is (relevant to the story).”

“That was a foolish mistake on my part, and I absolutely admit that.”

“I felt, based on historical evidence of how late the doctor usually is and how long the appointments go, that I’d be able to do both.”

“I normally don’t book back to back appointments like that.”

“This doctor’s appointment had been scheduled for 3 months, and the dentist appointment was for an urgent dental thing that came up and I needed to be seen as soon as possible and this was all they had available.”

“I had considered rescheduling the appointment with my doctor, but she’s booked so far out I probably wouldn’t have been able to see her again until February or March.”

“It’s also important to note that if you are even five minutes late for your doctor’s appointment at this office, they won’t see you. You have to be on time. This is common for most clinics though.”

“I showed up for my doctor’s appointment at 9:50am. I pay my copay, the medical assistant showed me back to a room, took my weight, BP, heart rate, and temperature, let me know my doctor would be in shortly, and closed the door.”

“My doctor is a good doctor and she’s thorough and sometimes she goes over on her appointments. It’s not uncommon for her to show up to the room 15 or 20 minutes late. It’s not ideal, but I’m aware of it and tried to plan accordingly.”

“I waited 45 minutes for her to come in, but she never did. As I said above, I had a dentist appointment, so I decided to leave.”

“I tried to open the door, but the doorknob is broken. It turns, but the latch doesn’t move. So I’m literally stuck in the room.”

“I try the knob again, nothing. I tap on the door, and no one comes. I jiggle the knob, nothing. I knock on the door, no one hears.”

“So, I try to get it to unlatch on my end by trying to push up on the knob and turn it at the same time, by trying to turn it quickly, and by trying to turn the knob while pulling the door towards me and also pushing it away from me.”

“This made a lot of noise, and somebody started yelling at me to stop from the other side of the door. They opened the door, and there are four of the staff there looking at me like I’m unhinged.”

“I apologized, said I had tried getting their attention by knocking but no one heard. All I got was ‘oh, we heard, we ALL heard, that was so unnecessary’.”

“I don’t know if they purposely ignored me. The space of me tapping on the door to when they finally opened it was maybe a minute and a half?”

“So maybe they heard me and we’re just getting stuff together or something? It just kind of sounded like all of them were talking out in the hall though. I don’t know. I can only guess.”

“If I had nowhere to go after my doctor’s appointment, I honestly probably would have continued to just sit there. I probably wouldn’t have even known that this was the room with the broken door knob.”

“I really hate confrontation, so I try not to do things that rock the boat.”

“Went to the front desk to ask for a refund for the copay since I wasn’t seen, and they’re all still looking at me like I’m some crazy person.”

“I don’t know. It was very embarrassing. Yes, I was irritated that I waited for so long and no one came. I feel like that’s a normal and natural reaction to a situation like this.”

“And this is a known issue with that doorknob. I’ve been trapped in that room before, but only for a minute. It needs to be fixed or replaced. Seems like a safety issue to me on top of everything else.”

“And not just that, it’s triggering for me to be locked in a room from the outside. But was I acting crazy or yelling or pounding on the door or trying to break it down? No.”

“I don’t know what I could have done differently. Wait a few more minutes? Try knocking louder?”

“I’m embarrassed and angry now, and I tried to talk to them when I was there but I really had to get to my dentist appt and I feel like trying to go back and explain myself as just going to be weird and awkward.”

“So yeah, AITA?”

The OP summed up their situation.

“I persisted in trying to open a door with a broken doorknob instead of just waiting for the doctor and staff to show up.”

“I might be TA because my attempts were loud and potentially disruptive and may have upset the staff.”

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors were split, but most felt the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).

“NTA—doorknob issue aside, they heard you trying to get out of a room and ignored you??? What if you were experiencing an emergency!? Rude and dangerous behavior on their part.” ~ rose_travis13

“That is a major fire hazard. What would happen if there was a fire?? How would a patient open the door to escape?”

“That knob needs to be fixed ASAP. I would put in a call to the fire dept and alert them that there is a fire hazard at a local medical facility.”

“NTA. They sound ridiculous.” ~ Palindromer101

“They left you trapped in a room and ignored your efforts to get help to get out? NTA. I’d find someone to report that to. Fire regulations are a thing.” ~ Miserable_Dentist_70

“I’m a dentist. I would have bent over backward to apologize to that patient. That’s INSANE!”

“I also have a tool kit and would have fixed the doorknob myself. I would always fear someone gets locked in that room.”

“What a bunch of unconscientious JERKS!!!” ~ Miserable_Dentist_70

“NTA. The door should open when you attempt to open it.”

“…’oh, we heard, we ALL heard, that was so unnecessary’?”

“I would have read them the riot act.” ~ KronkLaSworda

“NTA. This is entirely unacceptable for many reasons.”

“First, anything beyond 10 minutes waiting needs to be addressed. Patient time is every bit as important as provider time, and while emergencies happen, the patient is entitled to be advised and to reschedule if necessary. They ought to give you a refund AND apologize.”

“Second, it is a fire hazard to have rooms that you can’t get out of, whether because they are locked or because the doorknob is faulty. I would report that to the local fire marshal.”

“Finally (and this assumes you are in the US), there is a regulatory agency where you can file complaints. It is sometimes called a ‘Facility Services Complaint’ or something similar. I’d file a complaint.”

“It goes without saying that you will need to find a new primary care provider, but you were (hopefully) already going to do that.” ~ Tarik861

However, some Redditors felt the OP was entirely at fault (YTA).

“YTA—Why would you have two appointments scheduled so close together? Especially if you had to drive 45 minutes to the other appointment.” ~ 2774653

“YTA. You booked your appointments too close together and panicked. You know the appointment would take longer than 30 minutes, and your dentist is 45 minutes away?”

“Poor planning on your part. If the doorknob was stuck you should’ve just used your phone to call the front office and told them.” ~ Low_Effective_6056

Others were unwilling to let the doctor’s office off the hook (ESH).

“I’m going with an ESH. Definitely NTA for trying to leave a room and getting upset when they couldn’t, but a bit of a YTA for not allowing sufficient time for their appointment.” ~ Regular-Ad-9303

“My vote is a very gentle ESH. You scheduled two important appointments way too tight. A 45 minute drive to a critical dental appointment … schedule 1.5 hours just for that.”

“You have a good doctor so that means they will spend extra time with you if necessary. So you can’t control if they need to spend extra time with other people ahead of you. So it’s best to build delays in your schedule with them.”

“The whole door handle thing is absolutely their fault and with no reasonable excuse. This is a bigger problem than we should address here (or is being addressed in other comments).”

“But the issue here is you tried to be too economical with time with a ‘good doctor’. Good doctors are VERY hard to come by now, and many general practitioners are leaving or charging Concierge rates.” ~ E116

“ESH—your booking time makes you TA, doctors always run late, and also no guarantee that the doctor may have needed more time with you than you allotted for this appointment.”

“HOWEVER, the doctor’s office is a HUGE AH! They heard you could not get out of the room and ignored it.”

“That is NOT acceptable behaviour for the office since, one, I believe a fire hazard since there is no way for a patient to get out in an emergency and, two, if the patient is having their own issues (anxiety of being in a locked room or even just had to go to the bathroom) they are trapped.”

“I would call or email the office and report the fact that you were trapped in a room like that.” ~ EvaLittle

The OP provided an update.

“I’ve composed a letter, but I’m not sure how much good it will do. It’s a small clinic. Just the doctor and two nurse practitioners and a handful of administrative staff.”

“They aren’t affiliated with a hospital or anything either. It’s a pretty close-knit group, and the doctor is very protective of her employees. As she should be.”

“I kind of feel like I sound like a whiny little baby. It’s hard for me to assert myself, and I hate confrontation.”

“I’m not sure how my letter would be received. I’m probably going to send it anyway, though.”

After several people emphasized how dangerous this ignored broken knob is, the OP responded:

“I’ll call the fire marshall.”

“Seriously, please do. This is beyond unacceptable and very dangerous.” ~ Fabulous-Specific358

Regardless of whatever scheduling errors the OP made, the exam room door is still an unacceptable safety hazard.

Hopefully they report it to someone who will ensure it gets fixed immediately.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metís Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. A member of the Indigenous Journalists Association, she considers herself another proud Maineiac.