Where have all the cowboys [& psychiatrists] gone?

Yesterday I spent the lion-share of my time making phone calls. And when I say I was “making phone calls”, I actually mean I sat on hold trying to get through to someone at  various psychiatrists’ offices. Armed with a list of referrals from my psychologist, I braced myself each time I dialed a new number. And reached no one.

I knew I would need to wait on a list before actually seeing a psychiatrist. I never thought it would be difficult to reach a real human being, let alone schedule an appointment.

Nothing prepares you to leave a message requesting an appointment with a psychiatrist. By the third voicemail recording, however, I was crushing my lines like a seasoned actor.

“Hi. This is Suzy Q–. I am seeing Doctor Jasmine at the cancer counseling center. I have Lynch Syndrome, and a few other medical problems.She’s referred me to your office so that I can be seen by a psychiatrist. I’m having a hard time, especially with the anxiety and depression. That’s been an ongoing problem. Anyway, the Prozac I’ve been taking isn’t helping. My cell number is ……. Thank you.”

[Not the greatest voicemail message. I know. Don’t judge me — I do that well enough on my own.]

How quickly a sunny August morning becomes more like a tragic country song.

Do you remember Paula Cole’s 1996 song “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone”?

That was my morning.

Do do-do, do do-do, do do-do, do do-do, do do-do…..

Referral #1:  “Sorry. We don’t have a psychiatrist at this facility.” [Of course.]

…… do do-do, do do-do, do do-do…..

Referral #2: “We only see patients admitted to the hospital.”   [Good to know.]

…. do do-do, do do-do…….

Referral #3: Recording [See message above]

… do do-do…..

But I didn’t care about the cowboys. I wanted to know where the hell had all the psychiatrists gone?.

Nefarious - UnShuttered Soul - 2014 - Flickr

Nefarious, “UnShuttered Soul” 2014, Flickr, http://goo.gl/gXYFgE

I live in a small, rural town surrounded by equally small, rural towns. There are nearly 268,000 residents in the county where I live, and only 3 documented psychiatrists. Roughly 40 minutes to the west there is a relatively large metropolitan area of 1.2 million residents.  After each voicemail or rejection, it was clear there wouldn’t be enough psychiatrists there, either.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only 28,200 psychiatrists practicing in the country in 2014. Which sucks for me and anyone else who may not be able to wait for the 15% increase between now and 2024.

By lunchtime yesterday, I’d lost all hope, but at least I could report to Doctor Jasmine that I had made an attempt (or four) to reach a psychiatrist.


I finally made first contact with a psychiatrist’s office in the early afternoon. They called while my husband and I were out for a walk to clear our heads and de-stress. Unfortunately,  the practice was out-of-network. [Naturally.] But I made the appointment. Two weeks — just two weeks to go until I can see the psychiatrist.

Where is my John Wayne
Where is my prairie song
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone

— Paula Cole