“How do you like your walk-ins?” was the question from Bonny that started this blog.I have a giant sidewalk sign stating “Walk-ins Welcome!”I also advertise such in my monthly newspaper ad and on my website.I’ve had 20 walk-ins this week, 6 of whom were new patients.I schedule patients every 15 minutes, which leaves room for 2 walk-ins per hour.My patients all understand that scheduled appointments are taken before walk-ins.That way, those who are time conscious know that they need to schedule themselves.Those who have flexibility realize that they can walk-in, but might have to wait a few minutes before being treated.
Personally, I love the fact that I can walk-in for my own chiropractic care.As a mother of two young children (and formerly a single-mother of such), I find that meeting the demands of a schedule often compromises the quality time I could otherwise be spending with my children.My son wants to snuggle in my lap for a story, but “Sorry, we have to leave right now for the doctor’s appointment.”What my children hear is: “You’re not as important as my adherence to structure.”I have respect for the time my patients spend with their families, and I want them to cherish those precious and fleeting moments.Having walk-in-flexibility allows busy parents to come for acupuncture when the transition seems smoothest.Besides, getting the family organized for a scheduled appointment can be downright stressful…and healing should not induce stress.
Some patients are so anxious or indecisive that they can’t set-up an appointment.People with busy lives frequently need to rearrange their appointments.(I no longer charge for missed sessions, because I understand that there is an ebb and flow to the schedule, just as we see in the natural world.) I have one patient whose loved one is terminally ill.She’s trying to care for herself, her children, her loved one, manage everyone’s grief, and coordinate their schedules—I can’t tell her that I’ll only see her by appointment.When she happens to drive past my clinic and realizes that she has a few minutes to nurture herself with a quickie treatment, I want her to know that she’s welcome to stop-in for a visit. (And she does…)
I am teaching my patients to listen to their bodies.I don’t want them following a regimented treatment schedule.I tell them that when they hurt, when their symptoms flare-up, they need to be in more often…when they’re feeling better, they can stretch-out their treatments.Most people who initially come through the doors are very disconnected from their bodies—they’re floating about, lost in their heads.I want them to settle back into their hearts and feel again.Know what?They’re walking-in when they have a headache, a runny nose, or a weekend warrior injury.How many BA clinics are teaching their patients to get an acupuncture treatment within an hour of their headache starting?My patients are learning to use my clinic the same way they would a western center.I’d rather have them walking-in to see me for acupuncture, than walking-in to Urgent Care for a Vicodin.
Additionally, my “schedule” for patients is generally pretty loose. I want them to learn to go with the flow, to relax and back-off of the schedule crisis that we’ve created in America.One of my good friends in high school was from Spain.She had no concept of “time”—not in the sense that we did.If we said we were picking her up at 7:00 for a dance, that meant (to her) that she should be ready sometime before 9:00.I have patients who will walk in 2 minutes “late” for an appointment with me, and they’re completely frazzled!I’m telling them to just let it be.Everything works-out in perfect timing.People get killed in accidents every day because they’re racing about trying to make their appointments.
I agree that all community acupuncturists should wait tables before sticking needles in a busy clinic.Wait staff don’t get to schedule their tables for the night—they deal with the traffic as it walks through the door. They learn to let go of the need to control order. (What a huge lesson it is to learn to let go…) When things get harried in my space (like on Saturday, when I had 4 people come through the door simultaneously as I was finishing a new patient intake), I think of myself as the calm in the eye of the storm. The energy can all swirl about me frantically (as it often does before people are treated)…my work is to bring peace and stillness to my space and to each being within it.
My job as a community acupuncturist is to break-down the barriers that challenge people to care for themselves.I offer a sliding scale to remove the financial barriers.I wear casual or street clothes to reduce the class barriers.I have a ground-level facility to reduce handicap barriers.I offer evening, weekend, and early morning appointments to reduce the time barriers.I invite children to sit quietly in the waiting room, so their parents don’t have to find childcare.And I allow walk-in patients, so that scheduling issues don’t prevent them from receiving care.
I love the excitement that comes with not knowing exactly how my day will unfold.My schedule could look half-empty, but I don’t even let it phase me, because I KNOW without a doubt that I’ll get walk-ins to fill the gaps.Instead of energizing, “oh what a slow day,” I’m wondering how I will be surprised and delighted before the shift ends.If I didn’t allow walk-ins, the only change that could happen throughout the day would be cancellations or no-shows.Allowing walk-in patients means that I open myself to additional prosperity, which balances-out the cancels I might have throughout the shift.
I am delighted, thrilled, enjoying, and LOVING my clinic’s walk-in availability!I find that it perfectly complements the schedule my patients create.The walk-ins and the scheduled patients all fit together in perfect harmony. Walk-in flexibility helps instill creativity, spontaneity, and softness—couldn’t we all use more of those forces in our lives?