In 2002, I was completing my post-doctoral fellowship in psychological pain management, at an outpatient pain clinic in Illinois. I absolutely loved my position! Going to work was consistently deeply rewarding, as well as very interesting to me. (Everyone should be so lucky, right?)
My job responsibilities included providing biofeedback sessions for patients with chronic pain syndromes. I also provided individual and family pain management counseling sessions. This training was the culmination of my extended advanced education. Soon, I would have accrued enough hours to sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). I did experience several MS relapses during this time. However, I was well-connected to an excellent team of neurologists at a local outpatient clinic. I had officially received my Ph.D. twelve months before, in New York.
Completing a post-doctoral fellowship was very demanding, on multiple levels. I was required to complete a wide range of tasks, from those considered relatively more menial, to those requiring my expertise as a clinical health psychologist in an advanced training setting.
One day, my felliwship training supervisor approached me. He said that our normally dependable receptionist had a family emergency. Consequently, there was no way that she could make it into work. He asked if I’d be willing to sign our patients in, and to make their upcoming appointments. (Of course, this was in addition to, not in place of, my normal work responsiblities for that day).
I agreed to cover the front desk, as though I even had a choice, since my position was not of equal status. I assumed my receptionist duties, almost hoping that my own patients would cancel their sessions.
I found it exceedingly difficult to respond accurately to non-stop phone calls, while fielding a continuous stream of patients needing to be checked in. I could hardly blurt out that it was difficult for me to process so much information concurrently, due to having MS.
There were no visible signs that I had been diagnosed with this disease. Anyhow, I was checking in my latest patient, a very impatient woman, when I thankfully realized that I had forgotten to introduce myself. I subsequently said, “Excuse me, my name is Dr. Bonnie Floyd.” The patient standing in front of me said, “Oh Dr., I’m so sorry. I thought you were just a receptionist.” I firmly reminded her that our normal receptionist had a family emergency, and that I was covering her responsibilities. I also told her that although my work is different from a receptionist’s, it is no more important. I hope that my comment made an impact on her. Her comment certainly made a highly unfavorable impression upon me.