Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tales from Intern Year: Intermediary

On certain specialty services during intern year, we would have to answer pages from outpatients. In which case, we'd generally serve the role of a secretary, except even more useless:

Operator: "Doctor, I have a patient on hold to talk to you."

Me: "Okay, put them through."

Patient: "Doctor, I had chemotherapy a few days ago and ever since, I've been having hiccups. It's really bothering me."

[conversation follows about hiccups]

Me: "Okay, let me ask my attending about this."

I page my attending, Dr. Lazy, then wait for him to return the page

Dr. Lazy: "Well, if he's having hiccups, we can giving him some thorazine. Can you write outpatient prescriptions yet?"

Me: "No."

Dr. Lazy: "Then I'll call in the prescription. Call the patient and ask where they want the prescription sent to and then call me back."

Me: "Okay."

I call patient back.

Me: "We can give you some thorazine for the hiccups. Where do you want the prescription? A pharmacy or at the hospital?"

Patient: "I'll just pick it up at the hospital."

I page Dr. Lazy and wait for him to return the page.

Me: "The patient wants to pick up the script at the hospital."

Dr. Lazy: "Okay, I'll call it in."

So this was (count 'em) four phone calls dedicated to a patient with hiccups. What a freakin’ waste of time. But then again, it’s obviously more important to save five minutes of an attending’s time than to save an hour of an intern’s time.


  1. let me guess: if you complained it was probably explained to you that this system is for your educational benefit, and not to save an attending's time.

  2. I don't think it actually saves the attending much time, as he/she still needs to return multiple pages, but it definitely creates a hassle for all involved. At my university, we don't take outside calls at all, as our insurance doesn't cover us. I'm not complaining in the least!

  3. The patient appreciated it, though. Unremitting hiccups are horrible. Tricia

  4. Just curious. Are these items to prove you are not a robot getting harder and harder to read, or is it just me who feels like they have severe astigmatism, cataracts, and glaucoma when trying to decipher them? Why can't there be a "good try" or "close enough?" Tricia

    1. I totally agree! I almost never get it on the first try, and sometimes it takes three or four. The audio CAPTCHAs are even worse; I feel like I'm doing drugs when I listen to them.

  5. "not a robot"s are getting tougher. Which, I suppose, is the point but sometimes I "get it wrong" so many times that I just give up - here's to failing eyesight!

  6. How frustrating. Do you think if patients could tell their doctors exactly what was wrong, it would save both doctors and interns time?

  7. Why couldn't you do outpatient scripts as an intern? We had full prescribing privleges, including controls, on July 1.


    1. It varies between locations. In my province, we don't get outpatient prescribing privileges until we write our national exams (four to five years into residency).