People often ask me what it is like being on-call. When you are on-call you never know what you are going to get. Some nights are completely quiet. Others are non-stop in the ER.
A large portion of our time on call is answering patient questions by phone. We perform hundreds of tooth extractions and outpatient surgeries each day and you can imagine the number of questions that arise.
Here is a typical call:
Caller: "They are still having XYZ problem."
Me: "Hello, can you give me some more information? Who are you calling about and what did they have done."
Caller: "They had surgery. They are having a lot of pain."
Patient in the background: "Tell them I am having a lot of pain."
Me: "Can you give me the patient's name. When did they have the surgery? What have they been taking to help with the pain?"
Caller: "Yesterday. They are taking the pain meds and it isn't helping."
Patient: "It still hurts."
Me: "Can you tell me exactly what they are taking?"
Caller: "What are you taking?"
Me: "Is he taking ibuprofen? How often?"
Caller: "How often?"
Patient: "Every X hours."
Me: "Have you tried the ibuprofen?"
Caller: "Have you tried the ibuprofen?"
Me, trying to interrupt all along the way: "Can I please just speak to the patient?"
Caller: "They can't talk."
Me: "I can hear them in the background, can I please speak to them?"
Here are a few of my favorite questions (which may help you next time you have a tooth out).
Q: My friend had their teeth out earlier today and are having pain. She hasn't taken any pain meds yet. What do we do?
A: Start by taking the pain medications you were prescribed. That's a good first step! Call me if that doesn't work.
Q: My friend had surgery about an hour ago. Their mouth is still numb. What do we do?
A: The local anesthetic (numbing medicine) we use lasts for hours. Give it a few more hours to wear off.
Q: My son had surgery a few days ago and has the hiccupps. What do we do?
A: I dunno...stand upside down, try to swallow water, hold your breath, scare him.
Q: My friend had surgery earlier today and can't talk or move her mouth. She also has a lot of other questions. What do we do?
A: How do you know what her questions are?
Q: My friend had surgery a week ago and her stitches just came out.
A: The stitches are designed to dissolve in about one week so that's great.
Q: My friend had surgery 3 weeks ago. When can he start brushing his teeth again?
A: Three weeks ago!