Overheard in Medical Assessment

Occasionally a doctor answers a ward phone.

This is almost always a bad idea. The person on the other end is almost never looking for a doctor, and I never know how many beds we’ve got or whether patient transport has been booked or if that person is ready to go down to CT or what linen we need or what Mrs Smith had for breakfast this morning. And yet sometimes we do anyway, whether because there’s a touch of Russian roulette inherent in answering the phone just after you’ve paged someone from it or because some of us worked in offices and call centres in our previous lives and will evermore be constitutionally incapable of ignoring a ringing phone.

As a doctor becomes more senior, they are less likely to know the answers to any of those questions and they are more likely to have learned well the lesson that answering the phone leads only to trouble.

So it was that all of us who were engaged upon our own business near one of the nurses’ stations this morning witnessed this:

“Hello, Medical Assessment Unit … Um … Okay, if you just hold on, I’m sure I can find that out for you … (hasty consultation with nearby nurse) … Yes, Mr Jones, your brother had a settled night and is doing very well this morning … Er, well, no, I’m not actually the telephonist, sir, I’m the Professor of Medicine, but I can certainly take a message.”




  1. Hahahah! On the up side, you’ve got your humility well in hand if you can be Prof. of Medicine and still be okay with taking that message… in the States, seniority = superiority complex at times in the medical field.

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