Let me begin my rambling with a disclaimer...I feel very blessed and fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living. It is truly a privilege, and most days I love it to pieces. This morning, however, I am baffled by people. When I say people, I mean patients in general, and I mean OtherDoc's patients in particular. OtherDoc is out of town on a much needed and deserved vacation. I am covering him and his patients as well as my own, solo, for the entirety of his (rather long) hiatus. There is no way for me to describe accurately what it is like to be tethered to the hospital for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the electronic leash, AKA, the pager, but it is a little like home arrest. I really can't venture any farther than 30 miles from the hospital, lest an emergency or imminent delivery arise. I definitely can't be drinking alcoholic beverages for fear of aforesaid emergencies, and generally, there is just this nagging feeling of discomfort that at any minute my placid little home life is going to be rudely interrupted by a mad dash to the hospital.
Now let's factor in the patients. I know that the climate of medicine has changed a lot in the past 20 years. Patients are generally more savvy about their care, and tend to like to collaborate with their physicians on the plans for their healthcare. I think this is a good thing. Doctors are no longer revered or really even valued. We are often regarded with suspicion and plied with lawsuits for looking sideways at a patient. What I absolutely cannot understand is why patients, who definitely don't view physicians as authority figures any longer, think that it is okay to call, nay, have the hospital page their physician, at home, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, to ask what cold medicine they can take when they are breastfeeding, or ask said physician to diagnose some rash they have on their left shoulder OVER THE PHONE! This blows my mind. I doubt I would page a physician at home if my fingers and toes were falling off, I'd just wrap them up and get to the ER. I don't get why patients can show up in my office with sheaves of papers printed from the internet detailing their (self-determined) diagnosis, and the treatment that they wish for me to administer, yet feel the need to call me about an OTC medicine that they can look up on the internet with ease (in the middle of the night)!
Perhaps patients think that when a physician is "on call", they are supposed to be up all night, just waiting for their calls; their own personal medical encyclopedia, if you will. I know that people get scared and nervous and want immediate reassurance, but physicians are people, too. We have lives and families and the desire, to just maybe, get more than-2 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a row without getting a page so inane that we can't go back to sleep because it makes us so angry. That is all...for now.