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The game of telephone with doctors- so frustrating...

Lala329LLala329 Posts: 283
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Pain Management
We've been switching my meds recently, and with the latest tweak there are some problems so I called and talked with the nurse (uh-huh, you know where this is going)...I have no clue what got passed on to my doctor because the message I got back made no sense and has left me even more confused (but of course the nurse insisted it was correct instructions and told me just to do it even if it didn't make sense).

I'm *not* upset with the nurse or my doctor- it is the atmosphere of medicine these days and I completely understand that, but of course it sucks. The thing is I'm now stranded until my next appointment with instructions for the meds that do not make sense and that I cannot follow.

How do you guys handle this?? I'm certain we've all been here, where it's like playing a game of telephone with messages getting all messed up. I guess I'm not really asking about this specific situation, but just in general when you guys need to leave messages for your doctor do you have a strategy to prevent this or to deal with the nurse that calls back to prevent from getting completely shut down? I know nurses have to be gatekeepers to the doctors, but it is completely unhelpful to have incorrect messages going back and forth and then for the return call nurse to act like I'm an idiot and have no idea what I'm talking about. It is just frustrating because it all started as a simple question that should have had a very short, straightforward answer...



  • Lala I know exactly what you are feeling. Doctors today are too busy making money to really treat their patients. So they put nurses or PAs in the mix which is often a disaster. Don't get me wrong I think they can be fantastic but sometimes you get one like you have. How do you tell a patient to do something that doesn't make sense to you and obviously to her also!

    Patients have to be their own advocate. The internet has saved countless lives because now we can look up the drugs before taking them. I found a severe interaction yesterday and when I asked the doctor she said that the benefit was worth the risk!! So when my liver and gallbladder are permanently damaged will she say the same thing?

    If I was you I would check out the internet to see if you can get any more info. If it still doesn't make sense then call back and tell them you need to speak to the doctor directly.
  • Kris,

    Good advice. The internet is a great tool in situations like this, and thank goodness for pharmacists, too. I do want to come to the defense of my doctor, though. He has always returned my calls personally in the past, and has even called me when he sees me on the schedule if he thinks we can take care of business over the phone rather than having me come in, which is time he spends working with me that he is not paid for. So no, it is not about the money.

    What has happened is a change in hospital policy that has now put nurses in charge of the calls, and I have a feeling my doctor is just as frustrated by it as I am, and I'm quite certain he'd be upset if he knew what was going on. But, be that as it is, my future phone dealings will now be handled in this *ridiculous* manner which I know is a common practice, so I was just curious how others handle these things to prevent the mess that occurred...It makes me not even want to waste time calling, which perhaps is the point?
  • Sigh, I left an office that had one of those barrier nurses. Not like!

    I haven't had to try calling the PM doc, but I suspect I'd get a call from him personally. I know that's how my GP works. I much prefer that, the whole "I am so important I hide myself behind a wall of nurses" thing is bogus.

    But the other thing about my current PM office is that their office staff is very friendly and on the ball- what's up with doctors with inept staff?

  • HB I think it has alot to do with the doctor's personality. A happy, competent doctor will have happy patients which means the staff is happy to work there. They aren't making excuses for the doctor all day or listening to patients complain about the wait time.

    I think it also says alot about the doctors ability to manage his staff or hire someone who runs the office. My pediatrician has had the same three head nurses for the 15 years I have been using them. If you need something it is done and somehow they get you in no matter how busy it is. This lets the doctors be doctors.

    My surgeon is part of the hospital run offices so he doesnt get to choose his staff or procedures. But the hospital must be doing something right because the staff is incredible. They do use the PA to handle calls which I don't like(mainly because I don't like his PA) but it hasn't been a major issue and if I really need him he gets on the phone.

    I guess if it is bad enough I would change offices. Just have to decide if the doctor is worth putting up with the office practices.
  • hi! :H i always try to find someone in the office i can relate to and get along with and do my business with them.. when i go in for appointments, if she is not at the desk, i am sure to find her and say hello.. i have developed a raport with her.. this raport gives me better access to my doctor and any problems i might be having. i call and talk to her and she knows me, what is wrong with me ect... and corresponds with the doctor. this way, i don't have different people everytime doing something for me and they don't even know me. give this a try if it is at all possible. it really helps in medical situations to get as many people on your side as possible, as soon as you can. good luck! Jenny :)
  • Girls, Lulu makes a very good point! I try to do as she does. I get to know the staff, greet them when I go in for appointments, and also make it a point to thank them when they 'squeeze' me in. I think that tends to go a long way. Great point Lulu!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • this is a problem! It got to where my hubby ended up calling the office manager nurse and insisted that every time I needed something, that he'd talk to her and her only...so that we could cut down on some of the confusion! Blessings to you!
  • Your lucky your doc has a nurse. my NS has a Administrative Assistant and an office manager. He travels between 3 offices on different days so I can leave a message and not hear from them for days. I go and see him Sep. 1st and asking for referal to PM doctor. He's a great doctor but spreads himself a little to thin for my taste. I hate the cat and mouse game with meds and paperwork. My case is WC and everything has to be just so, so It can get very frustraiting at times.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    I think the first thing I want to talk about is just how everyone believes how much money doctors make. Look at some of these pure facts:
    (and the dollar amount is on the low end)

    4 Years of College ( $60K / year = $240K )
    4 Years of Medical School ( $125K/yr = $500K )
    2-4 Years of working at a Hospital as in Internship followed by being a Resident doctor. Some of those yearly salaries are way under $100K.

    The early days
    - 8 years after high school - need to pay off close to 3/4 of about a million dollars in student loans.
    - 2 to 4 years working at a hospital for an average medium salary, but working many times 72 hours straight, 12 hours off, 48 hours straight back on.

    So now about 12 years after high school they hope to start making better money. But now, because of so many law suits, medical malpractice insurance can almost suck up the total income of a new doctor in practice.

    Now in their late 30's they can begin to make a higher salary. But the way malpractice insurance cost rises, their comfort level with that higher salary may even be questioned.

    Personally, I think in the scope of everything, doctors are NOT overpaid. Of course we can look at the older specialized surgeons, etc whose fee's are astronomical. They are the ones driving around in the BMWs, Porches, etc.

    I know a number of doctors and you would be astonished as to their salaries added up against insurance / staff, etc...

    Plus look at it this way. If you got out of high school, went to college, got your masters starter working lets say in the Market or some other high salary field, you would be way ahead of any doctor in terms of financial independence.

    Now, as far as getting hold of a doctor by phone!
    That is a very difficult and at times impossible task. Why? Not because the doctor does not want to talk to you, but because you get screened so many times by their administrative staff.

    There are two scenarios here:

    1 - The doctor(s) do not start returning phone calls until their day is finished. So, lets say you call at 10:00am and want to speak with them, due to patient load, hospital visits, etc, you may not get a return call until 5:00pm or later.

    2 - The 'STAFF' Someone on the staff who has an administrative background only tries to play medical doctor and 'field' your call. They sometimes will make decisions IF you need more medications, when you should see the doctor, etc. Those are the unacceptable situations. The best way in handling this, is to simply tell the administrative staff, that you will listen to their advice as soon as they hang up a soon indicating that they are a doctor. Otherwise, you expect a phone call within 24 hours. And if not, tell them to expect to see you in person at their desk the following day.

    For my recent shoulder surgery and upcoming one, I have been very lucky with my surgeon. He accepts and responds to emails the same day you send them.
    Not many doctors provide this type of service.

    My long term physiatrist, does not accept emails, but she always called me back on the day I placed the call.

    And for any one, the worst case scenario.....

    IF you cant speak to the doctor and it is an emergency, they can put you in contact with the on call physician. In most areas, that means a doctor in the same practice, in some remote areas, that might me a doctor at a local hospital. But in no way should anyone go without assistance in an emergency situation.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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