Drained Of Professional Courtesy

by admin on September 8, 2016

This just happened…

I had surgery 3 weeks ago and ended up with a drain being put in. All has been going pretty well, I have NEVER called the doctor’s office with any problems.

Today I was hurting at the drain site. I figured the bandage had slipped and my husband could fix it when I got home this evening. I was surprised when he said it was fine and my wound did not look infected or anything. It continued to hurt. I called the urgent care associated with our insurance but they were closed. I called the surgeon’s office as I was starting to get scared.

The answering service got the doctor that was on call tonight on the line (he was not my surgeon). The man got on the phone and as I started to explain what was going on he interrupted me, and in a very annoyed voice goes, “Why are you calling me at this hour?” (It was 10:30 PM) I told him not to worry himself about it and hung up on him.   0907-16

I think sometimes medical professionals forget that what is completely normal and routine for them is not routine for the rest of us.   It’s not as if the OP has surgery every month and is familiar with how a surgery drain works whereas the surgeons see this all the time and are not concerned.   This creates a communication gap at times where the patient has anxiety but the medical professional doesn’t understand or acknowledge why the patient has concerns.

The patient’s side of this interaction does come with some reciprocal obligations, too.   OP, if the pain started earlier in the day, you probably should have called earlier rather than waiting to get home in the evening.   Pain scales from 1 to 10 are subjective and personal but for me, any pain that is a 4 or above would have had me leaving work, taking painkillers and calling the doctor immediately.    Apparently your pain was manageable enough that you felt you could wait for your husband to “fix” it later in the evening and upon discovering that there was no apparent visible problem at the drain site, your anxiety kicked in which only makes things worse.

Nonetheless, the on call doctor should have been more professional in his demeanor.

{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

NostalgicGal September 8, 2016 at 3:45 am

Between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am, especially around 3 am, is when everything seems to be the worst if you are not well for any reason. A few words of asking about the symptoms and finding out the exacts, then a reassurance if there was no indication of anything serious… would have been the best course. If there was urgent care then in your city should have been ER and at least a call to them might have helped the OP more. Rolling someone out at middle of the night, I’ll give the voice on the other end a pass. Things are always scary in the middle of the night with no experience. But, if there were issues earlier, call earlier, then have the bandage and wound checked.

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Carolyn September 8, 2016 at 5:22 am

An ER cannot give any medical advice over the phone. They would have told her to come in if she was concerned.

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NostalgicGal September 8, 2016 at 10:14 am

Have to admit the last time I called an ER was over 30 years ago and things have changed then. When I did call it was over chest pains and should I come in. It was quickly decided yes so I did. In the same major metro though, my HMO had an oncall nurse number that could be called at any time too. (before urgent care happened-those were created because of the number of working poor and working professionals that just did not have the TIME to be able to go in to a regular clinic which were often overbooked and wait-and started walking into ER’s (I did one evening as I started to develop bronchitis which I’m susceptible to and is a very nasty nasty long issue if it’s not caught right away and needed treatment and antibiotics NOW. ER doc wasn’t happy but fixed me up) to try to get NOW care.) The nurse number could calm someone down and either summon an ambulance or EMT team, or direct the caller to hospital or ER or clinic. They fielded a lot of new parent worry calls. And now and locally our hospital is small and the only medical response for a few hours, if you call after hours the nurse on duty will field it and help you sort it on should you come in and they get a chance to summon the on-call doctor. (few weeks ago spouse laid open face over eye and it was after hours so I called them as it was deep enough to maybe need stitches, then took him in. Nurse on call determined that it didn’t need the doctor’s attention and treated the injury. Our local hospital will have a doctor on call for 24 hours and near the end of their shift, they can be tired. (And sleeping in an exam room until needed). I don’t excuse the doctor but I’d cut them a little slack AFTERWARDS.

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Mal September 8, 2016 at 6:12 am

I agree that 10:30 is very late, but then again, the doctor was on call. Which means he should have been expecting being rolled out of bed as that’s what being on call entails.

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robin September 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm

I agree, the doctor was completely out of line, and blaming the OP, the PATIENT, for calling the doctor when he is ON CALL, is just not right.

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Amanda H. September 8, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Came here to say this. If you’re the on-call doctor, then you need to expect to be, well, called. That’s the point of being the on-call doctor.

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Charliesmum September 8, 2016 at 6:16 am

10:30pm isn’t really in the middle of the night, though, especially if he’s the on-call doctor. Part of his job requires him to be bothered after hours. That’s why he’s on call.

When my son was an infant he got his first fever, up to almost 105. As a new mother, I panicked and called the doctor’s office and the nurse I spoke to was not very pleasant, and acted like I was being irrational, even though my weeks-old baby had a high fever. Even if I was being irrational, I think the person on call needs to be reassuring, not rude.

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SadieMae September 8, 2016 at 2:43 pm

I can’t imagine dismissing someone for calling the pediatrician because their newborn has a fever of 105! For heaven’s sake.

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Daniotra September 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Nowadays, -any- fever in a baby two months or under is considered a major concern. My foster son spiked a low grade fever (100.6) the night he got his first round of shots. When I called in the morning, as the paperwork encouraged me to do, I was told to take him to the ER ASAP. Turned out the little guy had a UTI (which I had suspected and brought up to doctors twice before as he had stinky urine), and his viral report came back positive for the flu (he was completely asymptomatic). Little guy was hospitalized for two nights and had to have a spinal tap done as well. Long story short, phooey on that nurse for being mean to you.

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lakey September 8, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Wow. I would have thought that a 105 fever was a big deal for an infant.

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Amanda H. September 8, 2016 at 8:02 pm

That nurse was nuts. Every bit of parenting literature, as well as just about every pediatrician I’ve talked to, has stressed that if the fever gets above 104, that is DEFINITELY when you call in. It’s dangerous for such a young child to run a fever higher than that for a sustained amount of time.

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NostalgicGal September 9, 2016 at 6:21 pm

At just after my 6th birthday I kept getting a fever of 105f and was hospitalized. It kept getting worse, and they actually brought in the rubber sheets and prepped me for packing in ice and rubbing alcohol to break the fever after they recorded one of 106f… Then a nurse caught that every time they gave me the antibiotics for the chest congestion (never did the tests to confirm if it was pneumonia) my temperature spiked… it turns out I was allergic to the sulfa drugs they gave me. They switched me to penicillin and temperature went down to 101-102 and I got sent home. Any child at or over 105f, it’s not good news.

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LadyV September 8, 2016 at 8:48 am

If he was the on-call doctor, he should have expected to be “rolled out in the middle of the night” – that’s his JOB. When I worked a job that involved being on-call one week every month, I wasn’t thrilled about having someone call at 2 am for me to come into the office – but it was what I was paid to do, so I did it – and I wasn’t rude to the people who called me in. And I’m sure I was making a LOT less than this doctor!

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Lenore September 9, 2016 at 3:00 pm

My Dad was an anesthetist (now retired) for over 3 decades. When he was on call, he would pretty much be at the hospital for 14 or so hours, and then come home. When he got a call, he would get up, get dressed and go to the hospital. Not once did I hear him complain about it.

Not only did he have to help new patients, but he had to follow up on people he had taken care of over the last few days – deal with queries, fears, phobias, allergies, health issues and/or meds that could affect the anesthesia etc. He took it seriously, and knew that irregular hours were part and parcel of the job.

Yes, the doc the OP called may have been grumpy at being called, but 10:30pm is NOT late when you’re on call, and while he may have been accustomed to seeing heavily gruesome injuries, it is unprofessional to poo-poo a patient’s fears and not allowing them to finish describing symptoms.

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Jo September 8, 2016 at 4:39 am

10:30 pm is hardly the middle of the night. The doctor was the doctor on call. It’s his JOB to answer the phone and talk to patients. Instead of being rude, he should have been grateful it was a simple call, not an emergency. Doctors are not on call every single night, either. They take turns. So it’s not like he had to constantly deal with calls night in night out! I would have complained, if I were the OP. The doctor had no way of knowing whether her condition was serious or not!

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Lenore September 9, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Exactly, they have a rotation. At the practice my Dad worked at (anesthetist), there were 8 or so doctors, so he would only have to be on call roughly once every 6 weeks (had to allow for leave, illness etc). And they were *never* allowed to be on call for 2 weeks in a row.

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Angela September 8, 2016 at 5:46 am

Is it possible that the answering service got the wrong person?

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kgg September 8, 2016 at 6:11 am

The doctor should not have berated you for calling at that hour. However, I am a doctor – currently “holding the phone” this week into the weekend – and I often get calls at 2 AM or 3 AM for something that was going wrong earlier in the day, something that could have been better handled during the day, and it can be frustrating because there’s a limit to what we can provide patients at night.

I think the pain scared you and you panicked, and that’s okay. From my end, there’s not much I can do about a pain when a site looks good – or bad, even – over the phone. Except tell you to go to the Emergency Department. I don’t get upset when patients call for reasons similar to yours. They are scared. It’s the patients who call for new prescriptions or refills in the middle of the night when most pharmacies are closed and expect me to do something about it that make my life hard.

All that said, I hope you’re feeling better.

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NostalgicGal September 8, 2016 at 10:16 am

This.

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Amanda H. September 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm

This site is still sorely lacking in a Like button, but your comment deserves it, kgg.

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NostalgicGal September 9, 2016 at 8:19 pm

[LIKE] <<<<< (how you make your own like button. 🙂 )

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Kat September 9, 2016 at 11:33 pm

I wonder if you can get an answering service. I used to work for one and we had to find out the problem from the patient, and would have been in so much trouble if we paged an on-call doctor for a prescription refill.

(Side note: one night a woman called, and I could hear her having trouble breathing, an asthma attack. Paged the doctor. She called back 10 minutes later, Doctor hadn’t called her back. Paged again. 10 minutes later, the same thing. Meanwhile I can hear her breathing getting worse with each call, she can barely speak. I finally said “ma’am, have you considered going to the ER or dialing 911?” My boss the next day chastised me, saying we don’t give out medical advice. I don’t regret telling that woman to go to the ER.)

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Stephbwfern September 8, 2016 at 6:59 am

This reminds me of an experience I had. I was was 12 weeks pregnant with my second child (an IVF pregnancy) when I started bleeding. I had never been more terrified in my life. I called the after hours number for our IVF clinic and was told I could come in for a scan the next morning to check everything but that (and I quote) “there’s nothing that can be done at this stage – if it’s gone it’s gone”. Gee thanks. As a nurse myself, I was well aware of that fact but there were, like, a billion more sensitive ways to say that than what was said to me.
Thankfully that little foetus is now a feisty 2yo asleep, upstairs.
As admin says, sometimes medical professionals forget what is normal and routine for them is not for the rest of us. The experience has made me so incredibly conscious of how I talk about sensitive subjects with my own clients.

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Jess September 8, 2016 at 7:11 pm

It can get frustrating when you’re on the “other side” of your job, although being on the receiving end of a grumpy waitress is definitely not as hard to deal with as a brusque nurse with limited bedside manner.
I was very happy to get to the end of your comment though, congratulations!

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Kathryn September 8, 2016 at 7:18 am

I think admin is being a little harsh. This is what an on call line is there for. Sometimes I wait to see if an issue gets better or worse, or for a second opinion before seeking medical professionals.

I am thankful I can call my Mum (a nurse) who will tell me if a pain is serious or not. A few months ago, I was having some cramps that felt like period pain, though it wasn’t the time for that kind of pain. I let it go on for a few days to see if it would get better or worse. And because the pain was located in an area that gets that kind of pain monthly, I wasn’t too concerned about it. I experienced some very painful cramps on the 4th day, called my Mum and ended up in ED with an ectopic pregnancy. They operated on me before it burst, but only just. I just needed someone I could trust to tell me what pain to worry about.

In Australia, we have a health line that anyone can call that provides that exact service. For any Aussies reading, it’s healthdirect.gov.au and the number is 1800 022 222. The service is 24/7 and they’ll send any notes on to your nominated doctor’s office.

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Jess September 8, 2016 at 7:16 pm

I love the nurse hotline! I have always had great experiences and they are so helpful. Most recent call was because hubby had been running a decent temperature due to the flu – I understand that it’s the body’s way of killing off the virus but after day three I was starting to get a little worried. The nurse put me completely at ease and commiserated on nursing someone with “man-flu” haha

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Anon September 8, 2016 at 7:28 am

The doctor behaved abominably. Medical practices maintain on-call doctors for any and all problems that arise after normal business hours. As a non-medical professional, the OP was in no position to judge whether the pain she was feeling was normal or indicative of something bad. In the same breath that the doctor asked the OP why she was calling about this, he could have simply confirmed that there were no signs of infection, that the pain she was feeling was normal, that she could take over-the-counter pain relievers, and call back in the morning to make an appointment to get checked. It isn’t that hard to be professional.

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Cleosia September 8, 2016 at 7:46 am

There is also the issue of it it hurts for a little while and stops, you chalk it off as nothing. If it hurts for a while and then doesn’t stop and lasts along time, it becomes an issue. Any pain that keeps going can become an indicator that something serious is happening and can be especially alarming if you can’t see what may be causing it.

And a lot of doctors don’t seem to like explaining things to their lowly patients.

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Sara k September 8, 2016 at 7:52 am

The surgeon was on call. That means that there are very reasonable expectations for him to answer medical questions. If he was not on call, then the fault is with the answering service. Usually they transfer you to a nurse on staff who can assess the situation. They could have asked you to see how the pain was come morning and to call back if you are still worried or told you to go to the ER. I’ve never been transferred directly to the main doctor immediately on after hours calls. And I don’t think expecting the OP to assess their pain differently is an etiquette faux pas. Again, the doctor was on call and can reasonably be expected to answer calls. I just wonder where the nurses were?

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mark September 8, 2016 at 8:06 am

OP you didn’t do anything wrong, you were provided with this number to call if you had problems. You had a problem, and therefore called the number. The fact that you waited several hours to call is irrelevant. That’s why they have an on call rotation to deal with this, so they don’t get overwhelmed and can have time off.

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Shalamar September 8, 2016 at 8:52 am

That reminds me of when I was in labour with my first child. My usual gynecologist wasn’t available, so I had a complete stranger attending the birth – which was already anxiety-inducing. It didn’t help that she had a very unfriendly attitude. At one point she said “If you have any questions -“, and she was visibly irritated when I did, in fact, have some!

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LadyV September 8, 2016 at 11:07 am

When I had my son, my water broke at 6:00 in the morning. I called my ob/gyn’s number and when I told the on-call doctor my water broke, his response was “How do you know?” Well, maybe because my entire bed was soaked – and I DON’T have a waterbed!

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InTheEther September 9, 2016 at 11:43 am

I’ll give the doctor the benefit of the doubt here. I work in ER admissions, though I’m in the business dept. instead of medical care. And people come up to the window or call with absolutely stupid requests/statements. Now one of the rules of being in the patient care industry is that you never let on that what they’re saying is completely imbecilic. But your doctor’s probably had people tell him that their water broke when in reality they have a little acid reflux/gas and they’re not actually clear on what their water breaking entails. And yes, there are 2nd time+ mothers who haven’t gotten a grasp on how all of it works despite their previous runs.

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DaDancingPsych September 8, 2016 at 9:14 am

I am not a doctor, but there are things about my jobs that I dislike. I get annoyed when I am expected to work additional hours without pay. I dislike the phone messages that sound condescending that I am not answer the phone at 7:00pm. And I am tired of explaining of our benefits packages for the one millionth time. But you know what? That is all part of my job. It is not always fun or convenient, but that’s what I do.

Being on call is just that, you may be asked to work at any point during that time. No, I would not enjoy a call at 10:30pm, as that is when I am typically snuggled on the couch in my PJ’s, but that is the job. The doctor needs to take every call with the same amount of patience. I am willing to assume that maybe he was having a bad evening and this is one of the few times that he was not able to offer exceptional care over the phone, but that does not change the fact that he should have done better.

Could the OP have called earlier in the day? Certainly. But I sense that I am more similar to the OP than others. I can deal with a great deal of discomfort and try to figure things out for myself prior to getting the assistance of a professional. If I leave work ill, I am likely going to the emergency room. I don’t leave just to suit my own personal comfort. And maybe it’s poor advice, but my mother always taught me to give pain a moment. I might have thought like the OP did; I can try a few things without needing to interrupt the doctor. Sometimes you do not realize that you have made an error in judgement until it’s much later, so I give the OP a pass on this one… well, I see no error in etiquette at all.

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Wild Irish Rose September 8, 2016 at 9:14 am

“Rolling someone out at middle of the night, I’ll give the voice on the other end a pass.” This doctor was ON CALL. He should have anticipated that a patient might need him at any hour of the night. There was ZERO excuse for him to be rude to a patient, regardless of what time he received that call.

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NostalgicGal September 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

Yes the doctor was on call. There could be many other factors why they were less than nice when they got on the line. Between office hours, you the patient need some help, and between office hours, others should be kinder when it’s their job. It could be the answering/forwarding service too, calling the wrong person, or not doing the proper filtering first.

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Michelle September 8, 2016 at 9:17 am

I sympathize with you, OP, being in pain and scared just frazzles your nerves and patience. I have to agree with Admin, though- I would not have waited until I got home. I would have called sooner in the day, but I’m a worrier and would not have been able to focus until I had spoken to someone and/or been checked at the surgeon’s office.

Similar story: I had my first child (son) in June of 1993. Christmas Day of 1993, I had the flu and my son was not feeling well, either, and refusing food, water, juice, etc. Called the doctor and apologized for disturbing him on Christmas and he said “Yeah, you and every other parent in town”. I was miffed but described what was going on with my son and he told me “You have new mother nerves. His tummy probably hurts from all the rich food your and your family are probably feeding him during the holiday. Give him baby Tylenol and he’ll be fine”. We haven’t given him any “rich foods”, he was still on formula and baby food. As soon as I gave him the Tylenol he threw it right back up. Six hours later, he threw up blood and we called the ambulance. He was taken to the ER, then transferred to the children’s hospital. He had somehow developed ulcers and his stomach was full of blood. Never figured out what caused the ulcers but other than having acid issues and taking meds for that, he is now a healthy 23 year old young man.

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Queen of Putrescence September 8, 2016 at 9:53 am

I hope that you told that doctor what ended up happening with your son.

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Michelle September 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Oh, yes ma’am, I did. To this day, if I see him in town or at a fundraiser (or wherever), he apologizes profusely and asks about how he is doing.

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Wild Irish Rose September 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm

When my sister was four or five years old, she got sick and my grandmother took her to the ER. The doctor told her my sister had “Grandma-itis.” What she really had was a kidney infection.

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lnelson1218 September 8, 2016 at 9:45 am

If you are on-call, then it is possible that you will get a call at any point during that period. Even at non-banker hours

The doctor should have known better. Or if it wasn’t his/her shift, then someone else dropped the ball on updating the current number

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Cora September 8, 2016 at 10:18 am

OP: make sure to tell your surgeon about this, naming the doctor, and ask that the surgeon report the on-call doctor to the hospital or clinic. I had a rotten experience while I was pregnant where I was scheduled for both a regular checkup and a procedure on a Thursday that the clinic only ever did on Fridays. They were running three hours late, and I’m a type 1 diabetic who couldn’t leave to go eat. I called up my PCP crying, and she reported it. The next time I went to that clinic, I was not Patient Number Seven, I was Cora; and they never messed up my scheduling after that. Hospital administrations care a great deal about patient satisfaction, because its their reputation on the line, and will take self-important doctors like this to task.

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Annie September 8, 2016 at 10:43 am

My husband cut himself one night, and then as I was cleaning the wound for him in preparation for super-gluing it shut, he passed out and had convulsions. When he came to, I called the on-call doctor to find out if I needed to take him to the ER. I never got a call back.

As with any other business, I dislike paying for service I don’t get (and make no mistake, we are all paying for those on-call doctors).

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Jared Bascomb September 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm

What? He had convulsions and you called the on-call doctor instead of 911??
My doctors’ office phones ALL have an initial statement of, “If this is a medical emergency, hang up* and dial 911”. I don’t know if the on-call doctor had such a message, but if my SO was having convulsions I wouldn’t wait for a callback.

*I’m pretty sure this little direction is in there because if it weren’t some people would immediately press 9-1-1.

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Annie September 10, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Yeah, I was inclined to call 911 but he had regained consciousness and was insisting he felt fine, so I didn’t have full say at that point 🙂 I had to repeatedly insist that he stay lying down for the next hour.

The actual convulsions lasted for about 30 seconds, and I desperately wanted to call 911 during them but was holding his head so it wouldn’t bang on the tile floor. Worst 30 seconds of my life.

All ended well, but it was a long time before I let him cut watermelon again.

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Cb140 September 17, 2016 at 8:05 am

The convulsions may well have been *because* you were holding his head up. When somebody faints, they need to have their head on the floor – that’s what fainting is for (head needs to be level with heart, to restore the blood flow to the brain. If you keep someone who has fainted upright, eg by sitting them upright in a chair, or holding their head up, they very often have short lived convulsions like you describe.

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Jennifer September 8, 2016 at 11:03 am

I’m a bit surprised that no one had mentioned the fact that the doctor and the OP never talked through what was going on as she hung up when he made the comment. While he could have reacted differently, I don’t think it’s fair to place 100% of the blame on him when OP reacted by immediately hanging up.

I have a job that requires being on call a certain times and if I’m woken up, it’s almost impossible for me to immediately shift into a pleasant tone. Especially towards the end of my on call time when I’m living in a zombie state of sleep deprivation.

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ally September 8, 2016 at 11:06 am

I agree that the Dr was on call and should have expected this, but I also want to add:

OP, this is where using your shiny polite spine comes in handy. You bowed down to his irritation, and it’s unclear whether or not you actually got a response. You had already made the call, the Dr had already answered, so what was there to gain by hanging up on him? He doesn’t care that you’re annoyed by his attitude, and though you got satisfaction out of hanging up on him, did it solve anything else?

Being politely assertive, especially to medical personnel, is really really hard, but it is so worth. Trust your gut.

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Cat September 8, 2016 at 11:11 am

I applaud you for not snapping, “If you’d shut up and listen, I’ll tell you why I am calling you!” Anyone with a drain in her should be given some latitude in deportment.
Major surgery is frightening to most of us. Having a drain inserted in anything other than a sink or bathtub is going to be disturbing and to have it suddenly begin hurting means an appeal to a trained authority is necessary.
Anyone who wants a 9 to 5 job should have thought of that before embarking on medical school.

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Becca September 8, 2016 at 12:41 pm

My father “thought the pain would go away” when he was having horrible leg cramps, didn’t say a thing to my mom even in passing! Three days go by and he says “You know this pain in my legs, it’s just not going away.” “WHAT?” My mom gets him to the ED and it turned out he had blood clots from the chemo 🙁 Thankfully a week in the hospital got him on the mend but that was scary.

When you have a situation where you’re healing and something isn’t right, it’s better to be safe than sorry and bug someone at a much earlier time. Not just because you aren’t waking them up or bothering them during their nightly tv time, it’s better for you to always be cautious when dealing with the healing procedure.

The doctor was a jerk and should have told you that if the pain wasn’t going away that you should go to the ED. There’s no reason to ever ask a patient why they’re “calling you at this hour.”, I don’t care if they stubbed their toe, respond to their concerns like you’re paid so much to do.

Surgeons aren’t always known for their bedside manner, needless to say. They’re used to seeing you mostly when you’re knocked out 🙁

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Rebooting September 8, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Oh, I know that one. I thought I’d hurt my back moving furniture and that the pain was being unusually persistent. It wasn’t until a few days later when I couldn’t breathe lying down that I ended up in the ED with a clot in my lung and a lovely blood disorder diagnosis. Unexpected pain, especially unexpected pain that doesn’t get better, isn’t something to be messed around with.

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rindlrad September 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm

OP-

I’m sorry for your bad experience. It’s sometimes really hard to know what to do in these situations. Arrogant, impatient medical professionals who expect non-medical people to have their level of knowledge and skill are so frustrating. If I knew what was going on I wouldn’t be paying YOU!!

Anyway, I had an experience with my GYN, who I normally love. She had performed a surgery for me and everything went smoothly for most of the recovery period. On the Sunday afternoon before I was to return to work, I started to feel unwell. Not sick really, just not great. By 10:00 Sunday night I had a fever and was obviously sick. I called my doctor, as I had been instructed to do. She cussed me out for not calling her earlier. I tried to explain that I hadn’t been that ill earlier, but she was so irritated that she wasn’t really hearing what I was saying. She told me to come into the office the next morning. I did. Turned out I had developed an infection and needed a few more days bed rest and antibiotics.

Because up to this point I had really liked this doctor, I did take the time to discuss her behavior with her. She apologized and acknowledged that she was out of line. She’s my GYN to this day. I don’t know if you’ll ever want to use this surgeon again, but if you do you may want to consider discussing the on call doctor’s actions with your surgeon so that the rude doctor’s unprofessional behavior can be addressed. Responding to patients when he is on call is part of his job. I assume his colleagues will want to know he is treating their patients in a less than courteous and professional manner.

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AnaMaria September 8, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Ugh, I have met so many great doctors (including my boyfriend!) but these few give them such a bad name. Towards the end of my grandpa’s life, my mom took him to a medical appointment and started taking notes for him (his memory was failing him)- the doctor literally ripped my mom’s notebook out of her hands and demanded she “look at him when he is talking to her.” My poor grandpa must have been bewildered.

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lkb September 8, 2016 at 2:36 pm

My similar story concerns my child: He had gotten braces earlier in the day (a Friday) but very shortly after dinner one of the wires came out of the brackets, poking him in the cheek.

Not knowing what to do we called the on-call number (it was about 7 p.m.), when the person called back (it wasn’t the orthodontist), she rather snapped, “THAT’s not an emergency!”

Oh, no, a wire poking into a child’s cheek (and not knowing whether we should attempt to clip it off, poke it back in the bracket, go to ER), no that’s fine, we’ll wait until Monday…. (eye roll).

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NostalgicGal September 9, 2016 at 7:13 pm

In 8th grade, a classmate had gotten into an evening clinch with her BF and they both had braces and they locked up. It involved both of them having to kneel on a car back seat for an hour car ride to see their ‘mutual’ orthodontist in nearby big city, and at pretty late hour, have him let them in the office and unlock them. And stay over in motel so next morning he could redo both braces sets (they mangled some stuff apparently). That romance was officially dead or both of them were going to be… not to mention both of them living it down!

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b-rock September 8, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Of course, it’s also possible he was in the middle of an emergency. Seeing as he was the emergency on-call surgeon after all. Maybe he was a jerk, many surgeons are. Or maybe he was prepping for emergency surgery, or trying to figure out why someone’s 3-yr-old was screaming with a rigid abdomen. I have answered the phone literally while doing CPR before (as in over a bed doing chest compressions with the phone tucked between my ear and my shoulder) because I was waiting for the ECMO team or the lab or the blood bank to call me back with vital information, and trust me, if the person on the other line was not who I was waiting for I probably was not my normal professional self. I’m not AT ALL discounting the frustration of OPs experience, and again, maybe the guy was just a jerk who didn’t want to be disturbed. But it’s certainly just as possible that there was something else going on here.

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Lenore September 9, 2016 at 3:07 pm

AFAIK, there’s an “on-call tree” – or at least there was one for the practice my Dad worked at. You would be “first” on-call, then there would be a “second”, and a “third” etc. First call goes to the 1st, and a note is made that at X time, they were called for Y procedure. Then if something happens during the time frame needed for Y procedure, they call 2nd. I’m not sure if this is how it’s done with all medical disciplines, but it does make sense to do it that way. Otherwise you end up with a few malpractice suits…

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lakey September 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

As the on call doctor he should have listened to your symptoms and made a decision about whether you could wait, or should go to the ER. The question was uncalled for, but maybe he had had a bad day or something.

I fell and hurt my foot on a week end night and called my medical practice’s on call doctor. He asked me a couple of questions about where and how bad the pain was. He told me that I had probably broken a bone in my foot, but it could wait until Monday. This was later than 10:30. I’m sure it was a bit of bother to him, but he did what he was supposed to.
Oh, and he was right. It was broken.

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lakey September 8, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Also, I think that sometimes people call late at night because once you are still and not doing much the pain is more noticeable. This is probably especially true with sick kids.

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Jared Bascomb September 8, 2016 at 6:25 pm

I had major surgery five years ago. My first night out of the ICU and in the cardiac unit, my blood pressure dropped around 3:00am. It went back to normal at 6:00am and stayed that way for 24 hours until it once again dropped at 3:00am. In my morphine-induced late-night groggy state I informed the different nurse that the same thing had happened the night before, don’t worry about it . . . but she insisted on calling the surgeon at home at 3:00am.
The next day, when he paid his daily bedside visit, his initial comment to me was, “So you’re the one that got me awakened in the middle of the night!” I could tell by his expression that he wasn’t put out at all – that it was all in the line of duty. I eye-rolled and said, “Well, I tried to talk her out of it . . .”

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Maureen September 8, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Just an anecdote – I worked for doctors for 20+ years (nurse). Our doctor was telling us about a phone call he received at 3am from a patient because she “couldn’t sleep”. Not much to be done at the time, the doc wasn’t happy, please come in to the clinic in the morning. About two weeks later got up for a pee in the middle of the night and decided to call the patient to see if she was sleeping any better.

10:30 is not late for a doctor to deal with a frightened patient. Too many docs took what we called “The God Course” and lost their compassion along the way. I’ve had patients call me later then that when they were frightened and I was more than happy to reassure them.

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NostalgicGal September 9, 2016 at 7:46 pm

That was the doctor who I seen at an evening appointment, she treated me surily and condescendingly, then when I flat refused that her ‘auxillary diagnosis’ was correct she dressed me down and went off into a side tirade (considering her ethnic background, totally true but, me the patient didn’t need it) and she was quite loud. I went home, brought a few things back including some printed off the net material that backed up my side of why she could very well be wrong, and took her on for round two. She lost that one. I hope she did hang up her ‘I Am GOD you are so far beneath me because I Am A DOCTOR’ and got some therapy and anger management. She was a good doctor, she just needed to leave her baggage train behind (and a reason she was doing the rural access specialty mobile clinic instead of in practice-she couldn’t get a position)

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Kirstin Maltby September 8, 2016 at 7:53 pm

I agree with most, but we don’t have the full story here. For all we know the OP could have started the conversation with “I have been having pain since 8am this morning” so a response of “Why are you calling me at this hour?” can easily be an appropriate response. Which could mean, why did you not call earlier but also explore if you were ok enough earlier what has changed so much that you didn’t call earlier and can’t wait for tomorrow? As for tone, as I mentioned without context we don’t know how bad it was. I know sometimes when on call the person on the phone would be waffling on and it was hard after being pulled out of sleep to easily control my voice in the first few minutes while trying to come to terms with a situation across town and still being half asleep.
Not saying the doctor was correct in how they approached the situation, but that without full context this could actually be taken two ways.

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stacey September 8, 2016 at 9:44 pm

It really is unusual for a patient to be directly connected to an on-call without going through an answering service. UsuallyX a message is relayés to the doctor, who will either call the patient back or issue instructions (go to hospital, take pain meds and wait etc…). OP might have been the victim of a mistake on the part of the messaging service attendant, who should (most likely) have contacted the physician and relayed the message rather than directly and immediately connecting the patient.

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stacey September 8, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Sigh, “Usually,” “relayed”…

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MyWorldtwo September 9, 2016 at 12:13 am

Follow up….
The reason I did not ask to be seen during the day was because at first it felt exactly as if the bandage had slipped and my bra back was rubbing against the stitches. Annoying and ouchy, but not something to leave work about. It was not until much later that it really started to hurt.

I called the office first thing in the morning and spoke to my surgeon’s nurse. She was horrified about my experience and said she would have the office manager call me. She also had me come in. It turned out that my drain had moved and was hardly draining which was why I was hurting. While I was there the office manager came in. She apologized profusely and said the doctor’s behavior was not acceptable and that she would talk to him

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rachel September 9, 2016 at 12:49 am

10:30 isn’t late. Complain about the doctor to the hospital. I’m normally on the side of medical professionals over whiny patients, but you weren’t being a whiny snowflake, you were having unusual pain which is what they TELL you to call about!

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ALM September 9, 2016 at 8:05 am

It’s rather ironic this came through today, since I have spent the past two days dealing with an MD berating me in an unprofessional manner for not serving his every whim, appreciating his long work hours, and not knuckling to his passive-aggressive BS. (I’m a research project manager, I serve multiple researchers, but he feels I’m his personal assistant and should run his whole project myself).

Even under these circumstances, I still think the OP was the rude person here.

Yes, it is the doctor’s job to deal with patients, even on call. But they are ‘on call,’ not at the office, they don’t have the patient charts, the patient isn’t present and there is only so much they can do. At 10:30 they very much may have been in bed if they are at the clinic at 5 am or earlier. It would be nice if they were infinitely polite, but the patient is bothering the doctor in the doctor’s real life. The doctor can’t see the patient but the patient can’t see the doctor either and what they are interrupting. On call access is a bonus. If the worst thing you have to deal with is surliness, be grateful they are actually willing to deal with your problem. If you are healthy enough to be offended that they don’t want to talk to you, maybe you don’t have a real problem.

As for the timing, a friend’s husband told me this drove her doctor husband crazy. He worked in a practice that served many Orthodox Jews, and if he was on call on the Jewish Sabbath, the phone would be quiet all day until after sundown, and then it would ring off the hook when all the mothers of sick children were permitted to use the phone again according to their religion. Meanwhile, the kids had been suffering all day, clinics and pharmacies were closing soon, and just as his day was winding down, a whole day’s worth of work tried to come in all at once.

Yes, this is the patient’s religion, but it’s the patient’s choice to put their religious rules over their child’s health and over their relationship with the doctor. The LW is doing a similar thing, putting her own priorities over her relationship with the doctor, then being upset that the doctor is not thrilled to serve her. The LW opted to wait until work was over, not calling on either lunch, a break or as soon as work was done when the clinic might have been open. The LW then had their husband poke around at their surgery site without consulting the doctor (which totally boggles the mind). Then waited around some more, and decided 10:30 was the time to begin bothering the professionals.

Multiply that kind of inane and potentially dangerous behavior by 10 and then extend that over however many years, and I can see why the doctor was less than thrilled to be called, but when it mattered, he still answered the phone.

The LW then hung up because the doctor was ‘rude.’

For the LW’s sake, let’s hope the doctor didn’t have caller ID.

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MyWorldtwo September 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

I am the LW and disagree with what you have said! As I explained in a follow up post; it felt exactly like the bandage had slipped and my bra back was rubbing against the stitches. Hardly something to bother a doctor about.

Regarding my husband “poking around the surgical site” He had, with full instructions from the doctor, been changing the bandage, inspecting and keeping the area clean since the day I had the surgery on August 19th. Once he said that the bandage had not slipped and nothing looked wrong, I knew I had an appointment today (Friday) and was not terribly concerned. Then the pain rapidly escalated to where I was very concerned.

To me, “on call” means on the job regardless of where you may be sitting.
I sign people up for a necessary service. I will receive calls from clients at late hours, on holidays and weekends. I ALWAYS answer the phone with a smile in my voice. The clients are my bread and butter. If I am not polite and friendly they can always go to the competing company and much of my business is from referrals.

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Jennifer September 9, 2016 at 11:18 am

I’m not arguing the point about what was going on with your health, OP. I’ve been there and had a scary experience on a Saturday that left me confused as to whether I needed urgent care or the ED. The nurse line for my doctor was very helpful and calming.

That said, I’m replying as to point about being on call. I think those of us who have such positions may not understand what’s involved in other jobs. As I said in an earlier post, by the time I hit the end of my two weeks of 24/7 on call, sometimes I’m living in a haze of sleep deprivation. Other times, I’m tired a few mornings. When I work all day, take calls into the evening, and then get woken up at 11, 2, 4:30, and 7, there is no way for me to answer that phone with a smile.

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ALM September 10, 2016 at 11:38 pm

I did not see your follow up post, but nothing you have written justifies you calling a doctor after hours and then hanging up because you didn’t think he was polite enough. You were by far the ruder party.

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Amanda H. September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

I can’t speak for Orthodox Jews, as I don’t really know much about the rules and such in their religion. As a member of a religion that heavily stresses keeping the Sabbath holy (Sunday in this case), though, I can say that exceptions are allowed for emergencies, including health emergencies. Part of keeping the Sabbath is not working and not requiring others to work, but exceptions are made for things like medical personnel as that’s not something you should really just put on hold until the end of the Sabbath. So if my child was rather sick, I would not wait until Monday to call the doctor about it. However, it sounds like it’s different with Orthodox Jews, and I can’t really fault them (though it’s definitely frustrating for the medical personnel and I feel sorry for the children who spend the Sabbath sick without a doctor’s visit).

(And for the record, OP responded above, as “MyWorldtwo,” with clarifying points to the story including an explanation of why she waited so long and had her husband look at the site.)

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kgg September 9, 2016 at 2:02 pm

YIKES. It’s part of the doctor’s JOB to be on-call. If you get a job as a doctor and hardly have to take call, then that is an awesome job or you are a dermatologist. Yes, there are patients that absolutely abuse the system. But it’s wrong to treat every patient from the get-go like they’re out to make your night awful. They’re not. They’re scared and confused for the most part. I feel like if you start each interaction EXPECTING someone to be difficult (this goes for any situation), then you’re making your own life harder.

It’s bizarre that you think that someone would have wanted to prolong their pain just to mess with the doctor’s night. Clearly the OP was hoping the pain would go away and it didn’t and she panicked. She probably panicked when the on-call doc got grumpy and that’s why she hung up. And I bet you he didn’t give a crap that she hung up; he was relieved he could go back to sleep. As for her husband poking at the surgical site, what do you think a reasonable on-call doctor would have done? “Can you take a look at the site and tell me what it looks like? Is there any foul odor? Any yellow drainage? Any blood?” Pretty sure if the drain has been in place for 3 weeks (seems kind of long, but that’s just me, I guess), the OP’s husband was probably changing dressings/bandages regularly, emptying the drain, etc.

Personally, I have a work laptop that gives me access to the goings on in the hospital and patient’s charts. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes for me to look someone up and get an idea of what’s going on.

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InTheEther September 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Yes, the doctor couldn’t treat her over the phone. But really, when a doctor is called like that what the patient needs is to be told (A) do this simple at home treatment and go to the clinic if it doesn’t get better, (B) make a clinic appointment, (C) go to the ER NOW!!!.

I sincerely doubt you go to the doctor anytime you have a little twinge or slight symptom. The human body has a lot of little things that can go wrong or have problems, and it fixes itself on its own. A lot of the time the only way you know it’s a real issue is when it either doesn’t go away or when it gets worse.

And the Doc made it clear he had no interest in helping the OP. Why would you stay on the phone with someone who was going to half-ass it at best?

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madamefifi September 9, 2016 at 7:22 pm

I am not a bit surprised. I am a registered nurse and, in the course of my carreer, have had to call the on-call physician at odd hours for various patient issues. That is invariably the first question they ask–“why are you calling me about this?”, spoken in a very put-upon tone. Believe me, I would not call and expose myself to your rudeness if it weren’t important! On one memorable occassion the on-call MD was in the midst of running a marathon (!!) and, in those pre-cellphone days, had to huff himself to the nearest pay phone to call me back. He was quite annoyed. On several other occassions I have caught the doc enjoying his 5th or 6th apres-work cocktail. Good times, good times.

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MyWorldtwo September 9, 2016 at 8:06 pm

KGG- I had a large lipoma removed from my back that went down under my arm. It was out of my reach and yes my husband took care of emptying the drain , changing the bandage and inspecting the site. The drain was in much longer than my doc had expected, but he said with removing something of that size, it was not unheard of to need a longer time. BTW, he took it out today.

What really got me was that I had not called even once until this night from surgery that was done 18 days ago. That alone should have told Doc On Call that there might be something going on

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NostalgicGal September 10, 2016 at 8:41 am

Glad you’ve progressed, got rid of the drain, and are mending up. I assume your regular doctor wasn’t the one you talked to that night. I hope feedback has gone through the channels about that.

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Rebecca September 9, 2016 at 10:30 pm

Are you kidding me? The patient had a concern about something that seemed abnormal post-surgery. What if she had left it overnight and it turned out to be an infection? What would they say then, if she told them, “Oh, my husband thought it looked ok.” The obvious answer: “What were you thinking? Is your husband a doctor? You should have called us right away!!” The doctor’s response should have been to ask a few questions and then say, “It’s normal to feel some pain, but if it does X or Y, come in right away” or “It’s not normal to feel that pain, so come in right away.” Good grief.

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NostalgicGal September 10, 2016 at 8:52 am

Exactly. I had three laparoscophic surgeries a year apart. After the first one, I went on vacation. The incision near the bellybutton literally popped up the biggest patch of white (pus) I had ever had, and I was at our state park campsite feeding a payphone several dollars to talk to the doctor. (days of huge cellphone bricks, not even Nokia’s yet) His nurse suggested I clean it, lance it, and call back if (several things happened or came out) or go seek treatment locally if (several other things happened). She was calm and she did ask the doctor during the call. I did as told and I expelled one of the dissolveable stitches (ends and knot) put in the under layers. Along with a scary amount of pus. There was no green-yellow to anything, and no hot redness; and a bandaid and ointment from our first aid kit fixed the rest. It proceeded to heal rapidly. It did prevent me from going swimming or visiting the hot springs on that trip, but. Though at least even though I was calling across time zones it was middle of day, and they did address my concerns. (the other two surgeries I had similar happen, and no complications).

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Calli Arcale September 12, 2016 at 11:18 am

Very unprofessional, and I think it would merit a complaint. I grew up with a family practice doctor for a dad, and if he was on call, he would drop whatever he was doing to answer. Even back in the pre-cell-phone days when that meant finding a payphone to dial the answering service after his pager went off. That is what being on call means. And it’s not like 10:30 is particularly late. My dad would get calls at three in the morning. You do what you have to. Doctors are usually salaried, not paid hourly, but being the on-call doctor is a courtesy not only to your patients but also to your partners; you share the burden of being on-call. Any one of you drops the ball, it makes the whole clinic look bad.

IT professionals also have on-call hours, and being unprofessional like this would be grounds for termination, even if it’s for something stupid like the user turned off the monitor instead of the computer and can’t figure out why it won’t come back on. Doctors usually don’t get fired for this sort of behavior, though, since complaints don’t always come back to bite them. Which is precisely why I’d make the complaint in this case. His partners and/or employer can’t know he’s being unprofessional unless you tell them.

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NostalgicGal September 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm

Years back I was fairly small when we moved to what I consider my hometown. My father worked for the city. This meant running the water plant (they took water out of a river and treated it for drinking) and flushing sewer mains, etc. People would call at all hours of the night because their sewer was backing up from the street main so he’d have to get up and deal, and sometimes it was just a clogged toilet but they still expected him to do something for it instead of call the plumber. After he quit that job he was still getting calls in the middle of the night from people, for about THREE YEARS even though he told some of them repeatedly that he no longer worked that job they have to call the other fellow (that had the job now). Oh No. They insisted dad take care of it for them, NOW. (he removed the phone from the wall about 3:30 am one morning. We were without a home phone for over a decade)

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