Hate calling doctors? Especially ones you don‘t know? You’re not alone. Here are three ways to make it easier to pick up the phone when you have to call a physician:
1. Organize your thoughts
Write down what you want to say. It doesn’t have to be word for word. Just jot down notes or an outline. Start with age, who the patient’s doctor is, applicable past history, what the problem is and your assessment.
2. Have more information available
Anticipate what other information the physician may need to know to make a decision. Have the patient’s chart ready to provide a list of medications, known allergies and the latest blood work results are helpful to have handy. If the physician is unfamiliar with the patient and the patient has had this problem before, share what the primary physician did about it.
3. Remember to be courteous and respectful of you and the physician’s time.
Thank the physician for calling back. Introduce yourself. Keep your initial presentation concise and to the point. Don’t go on and on. Don’t repeat yourself or give extraneous information. Ask a specific question so the physician knows why you are calling.
Recently I called the primary physician of a demented patient who was crying out and climbing out of bed and her wheelchair. She had not slept in two nights. We tried all the environmental interventions we could think of, but nothing calmed her enough for her to go to sleep. The prescribed psychotropics were not helping. I read the last few days of nursing notes and wrote down the medications including prns the patient had received. I called this patient’s doctor.
“Dr. Smith,” I said, “Thanks for calling back. Your patient is yelling and screaming out and is crawling out of bed. She has not slept for two nights. She receives a routine antidepressant. Do you think an increase is appropriate or adding prn Ativan might be helpful?”
A few weeks ago I called the on-call physician, Dr. Smith, about Dr. Young’s patient.
“John Drew is a 84 year old patient of Dr. Young’s with a history of coronary heart disease, hypertension and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. He may be in atrial fib. His heart is irregularly irregular with a rate between 130 and 140. He feels fatigued but denies chest pain or increased shortness of breath. His lungs are clear. His oxygen saturation is 95% on room air. The rest of his vital signs are within his normal range. He prefers not to be hospitalized unless you absolutely think there is no other option.
If you are organized and prepared, the conversation will go easier for both you and the physician. Your patients will benefit and so will you. Not only have you presented yourself as the professional you are, you have gone a long way in developing a good working relationship with the doctor you spoke with. And best of all, you may not dread calling as much the next time.