Stalking doctors in the hospital: A patient shares her frustration
“I understand that what with juggling office hours and visits to hospitalized patients, doctors have demanding schedules. But do they understand that when your loved one is in the hospital, the rest of your life doesn’t just go away? Hospitals operate on the premise that we, the family, must make ourselves readily accessible to the doctor – not by phone but in person – —or else the doctor is not accountable.

Any time you are not in the patient’s room (and, indeed, the hospital prefers that you not linger there), it is assumed that you are in the waiting room. When the doctor arrives, the nurse calls to let you know. If you’ve stepped out to grab something to eat, make phone calls with some degree of privacy or dash home to feed kids or pets, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the doctor unless you’ve networked with others who are waiting and they are able to summon you quickly.”

I can sympathize with the patient’s frustration. Especially in the intensive care setting, any patient can have up to 5 or more specialists following, each of them only comfortable with their specific organ system. The primary care physician, hospitalist, or intensivist should be the “overseer” unifying the specialists’ recommendations.

Communication with the physician can be frustrating as well. From my end, I am rounding on up to 15 patients in the hospital, often from 6am to 10am. Then off to the clinic to see 15 to 20 patients in the afternoon. So, there are a lot of things on the plate. If a patient wants to speak to me personally, I give a time window (“I’m available between 8am and 9am for a meeting”) – similar to a cable TV serviceperson. Setting meeting times that is convenient for the patient’s family simply isn’t feasible when a physician is responsible for 30+ patients during the day, both in the clinic and hospital.

The solution? Well, I’d be open to suggestions. Clear family communication is paramount for any hospitalized patient – and can be difficult with so many things impeding this goal.

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