This doctor doesn’t mind if your cell phone rings

Please turn on your ringer, you might get an important call!

From your case worker. Your housing coordinator. From WIC. A question about your SNAP or TANF or immigration papers or medical application. A potential client for your taxi business. Your boss telling you a shift is available. It could be something important. So please answer your phone!

All of these callers work from 9 to 5, with a lunch break, so no, you can’t call them back in the evening. You can’t even call them back in the day, because they work in big government offices, with big phone trees that even your English speaking nephew can’t navigate. You will just get their answering machine, and chasing them down will burn your remaining 20 minutes of cell time. They may have left you a message, but you don’t know how to retrieve messages on your free phone.

If your phone rings, please answer it!

Don’t silence your phone in this doctor’s office.

Yes, there are others waiting to be seen, but that’s OK, I can catch up on charting for 5 minutes while you talk.

If I miss someone calling my phone, they will usually call me back. People chase me when they need me, a privilege of being higher on the socioeconomic ladder. You, on the other hand, won’t be called back a second time. You might lose your housing. Your kid’s milk. Your health insurance. Your job interview. These are higher priorities to you than your diabetes that we were talking about.

I went into underserved medicine to help folks up the ladder. I would fail if I had a sign saying “turn off your cell phone”. I would fail if I threw piles of paperwork at new patients, if I cared when a patient is late, or if I minded when a patient calls me from Baghdad on Sunday morning. I would fail if I didn’t put your needs first.

You are not interrupting me by taking that call. It is an honor to serve you, so please keep your ringer on.

P.J. Parmar is a family physician at Ardas Family Medicine, Aurora, CO, and blogs at P.J.! Parmar.

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