Busy bee: A doctor's work is ... always interrupted

“Popularity breeds contempt.” Boy George says that before he sings “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”

I was never popular growing up in my hometown in Ohio, so I never got interrupted going to the grocery store, playing golf on our redneck course, or studying at my desk. Oh, well. At least I got my tasks done ASAP without interruptions.

What happens when your doctor is interrupted all day long? The answer is: You wait and wait… and did I mention you wait? So what's the doctor doing before he or she comes into your exam room?

Pharmaceutical reps! Is that your first guess? I hate to tell you, but signing for samples and talking to pharmaceutical reps probably is the least time-consuming activity during my day. The guilt I feel when I’m running late (which is all the time) keeps me propelling forward like dolphins towards delicious fish.

Patients call with questions or medical problems, and sometimes the nurse or receptionist has to pull the doctor to the side to relay the message: “Mr. Fries is having chest pains, but he’s sure it’s his acid reflux, not his heart. So he refuses to take my advice to go to ER.”

“Miss Work has a migraine and wants a note now or her boss will fire her.”

“Mr. Noncompliant’s wife has called five times in the last hour demanding you do....”

True, it isn’t fair to the patients who have a scheduled appointment to be brushed to the side when other patients are calling, but sometimes the doctor has to act on issues in a timely fashion. It’s no fun. Trust me. Instead of multitasking, I’d rather be ice dancing, even with the risk of falling on my keister.

Medical professionals call quite often. “The pharmacist won’t dispense the medicine unless you confirm that you know about this side effect.”

“Doctor Zhivago is calling long distance from Russia about a mutual patient.”

“The radiologist is on line one about Ms. Wheezy’s chest X-ray.”

When interrupted about another patient, the doctor has to “change hats” on patients, which requires a lot of concentration. One doctor friend of mine said he tries to make a beeline from the exam room to his office because he’s interrupted at least three times during this short journey.

“Dr. Hong, the oxygen rep is here for Mr. Puffer. Can you please sign these three things and write down your findings here?” Scribble scribble.

“Dr. Hong, sorry to interrupt, but Mrs. Rack is at mammography and doesn’t have her form, though you gave it to her. Can you sign this real quick?” Scribble, scrabble.

“I’ve been looking for you, Dr. Hong! Mr. Scatter is here for his Ritalin prescription; he's leaving for Paris in four hours. Can you write a prescription since the nurses can’t?”

“Dr. Hong, Ms. Tinkle just gave me a urine sample and she has a UTI.”

The most important break between patients is el baño. However, I still end up giving orders through the door– without using names of patients, of course. (My college friend was Roseanne Barr’s assistant when she had her #1 hit show, Roseanne. He told me she used to give orders even while in the WC.)

Have I distracted you enough? I sure do feel like a “rock star” at work– as in having rocks thrown at me. This is the kind of popularity I don’t need!

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he’s a respected physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions!

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