Curves Ahead


I am going to deviate from my standard fare to something a bit selfish today. I need to get this off of my chest as I have wrapped up the worst call week I have had in over five years.

Tips for calling your physician’s answering service after hours:

1. Don’t cuss out the on call doctor if you don’t get what you want. That just goes in your chart. We are trying to help. Really. But if you have not been seen at the office for over two years, I am not going to call in an antibiotic over the phone for you for the head congestion that just started this morning. I just can’t. I am sorry.

2. Make sure this is something that cannot wait until the office is open. Case in point, a call I received on Christmas morning to let me know about hip pain. The fellow had had it for over a year, worse the past three weeks. After he went through the entire treatment course for the whole past year he told me that he didn’t really want me to do anything about it per se. He just wanted to have me send a message to his doctor so he could get in to the clinic to see her when they opened back up next week. He was a super nice man and I felt bad for him. But we were opening presents…

3. Stay by your phone until we call you back. Please. I beg you. That unidentified call about ten minutes later? That’s me. Sometimes it is longer if I am driving and have to find wifi or if I have to pry screaming kids off of me and lock myself in the bathroom. 90% of the time when I call back, no one answers and I have to leave a message or try to call back again in a few minutes. What you may not know is that I have to pull out my computer, boot it up, log onto the electronic health record, and scan your chart so I know your medical problems, medications, kidney function, allergies, etc. I don’t mind doing that at all. It makes it easier and safer to take care of you. But when I am having a meal with my family, it sure is nice to be able to wrap it up and close it down with one phone call instead of dragging it out into a 20-30 minute ordeal.

4. We call back with our number blocked because we are calling from our personal cell phones and believe it or not, many people abuse it when they have that info. Please don’t take it personally. Also, please take the unidentified number call block off your phone, at least temporarily. It is terribly frustrating to call, get rebuffed by some bitchy sounding automated woman, and then have to call the answering service and have them call you back and then patch you through to me.

5. Do NOT call me for severe chest pain and/or shortness of breath. Go to the ER. Now. No, I said go right now. Shush it. Just go.

Happy Monday, folks! I am so glad to be able to turn my phone to silent again that I feel almost giddy. Woohoo!!!


96 thoughts on “Curves Ahead

  1. Most patients forget that doctors have lives of their own, including spouses and families. While I’ve never cussed out an on-call doctor or done any of the other things you mention, I admit that I was once guilty of feeling total surprise when I went to a Fourth of July fireworks display and saw my doctor sitting a few feet away from us, with his wife (I never knew he had a wife).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just reading your posts makes me feel stressed. I remember those call weeks well, especially the ones I experienced before we had an answering system and nurse triage. I would be on the phone for two to three hours straight in the evening answering calls before I’d get a tiny reprieve. Add onto that hospital rounds, newborn exams, and clinic and it made for 4:30 am to 8 pm days (with phone calls all night) for seven days straight. There really is nothing quite like the elation you feel when your call week comes to a close and you turn off that pager, is there? Sheer euphoria. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m stunned that this happens. I have a GP. I love him but he is hard to get into so I developed a relationship with an emergency walk-in center (not a hospital emergency room) nearby. They can see me within an hour or two and they will send my GP notes. I save them for emergencies like when I had 12 wasp stings and blew up like the Goodyear blimp or my sty became so painful I didn’t want to wait until the next day. If I have a long term issues I go to my GP. Am I the only one who does that? My sympathies to your very supportive family!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I would hate that. I mean I admirr your work but to not be able to shut it off and forget about it while in your ‘own life’… that would drive me slightly insane. Even if no one called you still surely can’t fully relax

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had a special, cryptic code I used for P.I.T.A. patients (and that doesn’t stand for the Animal Rights group…). It went on their permanent file.

    I’m lounging in my Minanthropes R Us jammies, sipping a nice adult beverage, enjoying one of the benefits of unemployment…no idjits to deal with. πŸ™‚ Enjoy your respite!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Worth sharing since I know that this life line can so easily be abused. When looking after my mother in her last months it was made easier for us both knowing that a doctor would be on the end of the telephone if needed. Sometimes different doctors but all with the same purpose – to try and make things better. In so many countries access to medical care is non-existent – lets take better care of our own in 2015…..


  7. Hehe, I kind of had to snicker because out of all the call that I do, home call answering service on Familu Medicine was THE WORST. I do a lot of “crap” on call in the hospital, like give verbal orders for glycerin supps at 3am, or “take note” that nurse wanted to tell me that Mr X still has had no colostomy output. But what takes the cake was when the answering service patched me through, at 1am, to a woman who was calling becauae she was concerned that her daughter had a fever and was cranky all day. When i answered in a somehwat groggy voice, she angrily asked if she woke me up. “Um… Its okay, I’m here to help you, what can I do?” She then insisted that it wasnt a big deal and it could wait until the morning before she hung up on me. I wish she could have thought of that before she called!
    Im glad you had the opportunity to vent!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, my deepest sympathy for you. I have sat on the phones for training support and am baffled by the requests we get. But do not ever do what one triage nurse did… she took a call from a frequent flyer who called usually after our “day” visiting staff were done and the evening shift was already out. She would complain and bitch at the RN on triage who could only take information. She also took a lot of verbal abuse from this patient. When she hung up, the triage nurse let out a rant with all sorts of expletives about the patient. However, it seems the phone never hit the cradle properly and was still open and the patient was still on the line……taping the whole phone call. Our administrators did not see the humor in the situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I will remember this post tomorrow when I get angry that I have to put down my grooming scissors to answer what I know will be a stupid question call. When looking into the lives of others one realizes how petty our own complaints can be. I can turn my phone off at the end of the day, what am I getting grumpy about? Awesome Post! Your ability to keep it light hearted is endearing. I will keep your suggestions in mind every time my mother insists I call the doctor on a Saturday just because she wants to make sure he remembered to…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s horrible that people have no consideration for you. Thank goodness I can honestly say that I have never done this to my doctor or the kids pediatrician. I hope you feel better after venting…’s what we’re here for. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh I am so with you in this one. Can I add one? Please do NOT send me text photos of your wounds or anything naked body parts (since I do breast surgery after all) and ask me whether it looks fine at 2am in the morning. Actually, don’t send it to me at all, you never know who is sitting next to or playing with my phone, it could be my five year old nephew…. Who couldn’t stop giggling.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had to tell a close friend to stop sending me text pictures of the rash on her kiddo’s genitalia. Jail time for kiddie porn. That was what I was afraid of. Never mind there is a true rash and I am a real live doctor. Those are baby buttocks. The news outlets would pounce! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Victo,
    This is my first visit to your blog and I must say I really liked the title of your blog. I am what you would have to describe as a “frequent flyer” in the medical system, despite being in my mid 40s. I have quarterly checks with my specialists and somehow I ended up having a lot of big tests just before the end of the year, which means that we’re trying to fix things over the Christmas period, which in Australia is like trying to wake a sleeping giant. A few years ago, I received a very unsettling diagnosis just before Christmas and had terrible trouble trying to get into any kind of specialist at all initially and was starting to go through the Yellow Pages until the dr I was originally referred to relented and opened his books but I had a 3 weeks wait and during this time, I really did have some kind of mental and physical crash. I felt absolutely awful. That proved to be okay but the problem did surface last Christmas but this time I had the specialist team in place and with 3 days notice my specialists arranged 6 consecutive weeks of chemo through Dec and January and woke that sleeping giant on my behalf. This Christmas I broke my foot and after reassuring me that my cough was a virus but here’s antibiotics in case oh and a chest xray….my GP called me and arranged a chest CT again all over the Christmas break. This will be my third trip back to radiology in 3 weeks.
    I’ve now decided to move my annual tests to the middle of the year instead.
    Nobody..doctors or patients wants to be hanging around hospitals at Christmas and we all want to have a Merry Christmas with family …or even just the dog or the cat.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. I’m so sorry you have to deal with that! People suck! Perhaps you’ll feel better to know it’s not just doctors they abuse. They crawl out from under their rocks to irritate all sorts of professions, ask for freebies, interrupt family times, complain about the quality of the freebies they received, demand faster service, whine about life in general, act as if they are the only people on the planet that matter, and just gripe, bitch and moan in general. Then when they’re done chewing us up and spitting us out, they move on the the next unsuspecting person so they can spread the wealth. Good luck! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Now that I’ve scrolled through your one and a half million comments, you’ve probably gone and come back from your days off already and whatever it was that I wanted to say is probably irrelevant by now. Therefore, I’ll save my words of wisdom until the next time you publish a post (he says as he walks off in a snit). Lol. Actually, I just wanted to wish you a really happy New Year, and say that I hope it’s really uneventful, unless we’re talking wild family parties.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What if, after a reasonable amount of time on a legitimate call or a shorter time on a stupid call, you let kid type noises be heard in the background. If the patient comments on it, say, “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s Christmas and my children want me to watch them open their presents, now, where were we?” It would be a way to let patients know you’re not sitting at an office and you do have a life so let’s get to the point. But hopefully you wont be on call next Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

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