OK, I couldn’t take it any more. The rant of the day is cell phones, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pet peeve of mine when I am in a room with a patient and someone answers their cell phone. Don’t get me wrong, my phone is often on vibrate if I am in a meeting. Unless someone knows the secret code for emergency, I’ll wait until I am out of the meeting or will sometimes look to see who is calling and then put my phone back in the holster. Ed McMahon never seems to call me when I want him to. I rarely if ever answer my cell phone when in the presence of someone else and if I do so, I excuse myself and leave their presence.
More than 90% of the people in emergency rooms just pick up their cell phone and begin blabbing as if nothing is out of the ordinary. “Yeah, mom’s blood pressure is 70/nothing and the doctor is about to stick a funny looking tube down her throat. Who are you going to the dance with next winter?”
There was a doctor I worked with a long time ago who used to carry her cell phone around with her when she saw patients. The nurses told me that one time she got into a shouting match with her boyfriend on her cell phone in a patient’s room … during a code.
Our hospital has signs up all over the place stating that cell phones must be turned off. Even though they probably aren’t accurate, we quote the studies stating that cell phones can interfere with medical equipment. A specific case was reported by the FDA, but I’m a little leery about quoting anything the FDA says right about now.
Despite the signs, I have had family members talk so loud that I can’t even obtain a history from the patient. At first I stop talking and stare at them, but some people don’t get the hint. They just keep chatting away. Then, depending upon my mood, I will either ask the family member to leave the room or, in a louder voice, I will tell the patient that I cannot understand what they are saying because their family member is talking too loud … on their cellphone … which is supposed to be turned off in the emergency department.
Some family members have pulled a John Madden on me. When I examine the patient, they give the person on the other end of the line a play-by-play of everything I am doing. “He is listening to her lungs now. He is making a face. Wonder what that means. Oops, probably nothing. He just itched his nose. Now he is listening to her heart. Mom had problems with her heart as a kid, you know. Now he is pressing on her stomach. Ooooh, she just moaned in pain. That had ta’ hurt. I wonder if he is going to give her any pain medicine…” I have always wanted to end that type of conversation something like “Now the doctor is walking toward me. He is grabbing the phone out of my hands. He is throwing it against the … [Disconnect].” Kind of like this.
Patients can be just as bad as the family members. I understand that sometimes people have to wait a long time and they talk on the phone to pass the time. But if it is busy, when I finally do walk in the room, I would hope that the patient would want to talk to me instead of someone they’re going to see an hour later if they get discharged. Some times I guess people just find me boring.
A few days ago, there was a young guy who was brought in by ambulance for chest pain (yes, he got his EKG on arrival). I walked in the room about 30 minutes after he arrived and he had his cell phone to one ear and the hospital phone to his other ear. He was alternating talking into one phone and then the other. I walked in and told him “Sorry about the wait, I’m Dr. WhiteCoat. What can I do to help you?” He just kept talking into his cell phone as if I was not there. I waited about five more seconds for him to finish his conversation and it appeared that he had no intent of doing so. I then told him in a loud voice “I will be back when you are off of your phone.”
I went to see a couple of other patients, admitted someone, and then came back in the room. He was still on his cell phone, but as soon as he saw me walk through the door, he said “gotta go” and hung up the phone. He ended up being an OK guy, and, after reviewing his old records and normal stress test, his chest pain appeared to be from his stomach and not his heart.
I was talking with our lab technician while the patient was over and the x-ray department. I had mentioned the issue I had with the patient on a cell phone. We commiserated over some peoples’ lack of cell phone etiquette.
Shortly afterwards, the patient was wheeled back into the room by the x-ray technician. The lab technician went into the room literally 30 seconds later to draw blood. He was in there for a few minutes and then came out with a smile on his face.
“When I went in the room, he was already on his cell phone. As soon as I opened the door, he hung up the phone. Then when he saw it was me, he opened the phone back up and made a call. He told me ‘I thought you were that doctor again. I didn’t want to him to make me wait another hour before he came in and gave me the results of my tests.'”
If anyone ever invents a portable device to make someone else’s cell phone disconnect a call remotely, I’ll be the first in line to purchase it. Price is no object.