Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Monday, February 02, 2009
    On Call: Rules of the Game

    As I sit at my desk facing another night on call, I thought perhaps I might do my good deed for the day by posting a few etiquette suggestions.
    • To the anxious relative calling from three thousand miles away: You are running up your phone bill for nothing. If you want to get your money's worth you should probably call during office hours so that you can talk to your parent's ACTUAL DOCTOR. I can guarantee you that if you talk to me we will both wind up frustrated. I can't read my partners' minds, and I can't tell you what Dr. X was thinking when he ordered Drug A instead of Drug B or why he sent your parent to Nursing Home Alpha Beta Gamma instead of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

    • Also, if you are a grumpy patient looking for ammunition to bolster your claim that Dr. X makes terrible clinical decisions you won't get it from me. Even if that is the case (which I am happy to say is highly unlikely, at least in my group) there's no way in hell I'd tell you that over the phone. That way lies madness, not to mention malpractice suits. If I have a real question about care I will raise it directly with the doctor himself/herself, and I will assure you of my intention to pursue it and then get back to you. Rarely do I need to do this, but it happens once or twice a year.

    • If you are sitting in the ER waiting to be seen, you have my sincere sympathy, but I do not run the triage department and I cannot get you seen any faster. Please do not call me.

    • If you are an elderly neurotic with a grudge against your family because they dared (how dare they!) to go away for the holidays without you, even though they made arrangements for you to get regular home care while they were gone, and you call me to ask if you should file a complaint with Adult Protective Services, I will make you sorry that you were ever born. I am not making this up - I actually got this call.

    • If it's likely that you will need a prescription, please have a pharmacy number in mind before you call me. If it's the middle of the night or a holiday, please make sure it is a 24-hour pharmacy. Do you want the prescription or not?

    Thank you.




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