Comment

Taking tricky phonecalls from patients

Jane Bates navigates a potential minefield.
Jane Bates

Jane Bates navigates a potential minefield

I was losing before I had begun. The line was crackly and the general hubbub in the office was making it even harder to hear.

The patient on the end of the phone had a rather unusual surname that I needed him to spell out. It begins with an A, he said. A? I queried, but he thought I said eh?

A he bellowed, so loudly I nearly dropped the phone. We continued repeating the letter A for what seemed like an eternity, until he changed tack. A for Arthroscopy! A for Appendicitis! he yelled.

Apple would have sufficed, but he clearly thought my vocabulary was exclusively medical. It did the trick though, and we moved on.

How strange are the phone calls we have with patients? So many expect you to recognise them and know about their

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Jane Bates navigates a potential minefield

I was losing before I had begun. The line was crackly and the general hubbub in the office was making it even harder to hear. 

The patient on the end of the phone had a rather unusual surname that I needed him to spell out. It begins with an A, he said. ‘A?’ I queried, but he thought I said ‘eh?’ 

‘A’ he bellowed, so loudly I nearly dropped the phone. We continued repeating the letter ‘A’ for what seemed like an eternity, until he changed tack. ‘A for Arthroscopy! A for Appendicitis!’ he yelled.

‘Apple’ would have sufficed, but he clearly thought my vocabulary was exclusively medical. It did the trick though, and we moved on.  

How strange are the phone calls we have with patients? So many expect you to recognise them and know about their problem, they are put out when not immediately identified. 

The callers with vague complaints are a real puzzle, like the woman who rang to say her eye looked ‘a bit odd’. 

It could have been serious, or of no significance, so I needed her to be more specific. ‘Find a mirror,’ I said. ‘Is the eye pink? Droopy? Puffy? Weepy?’ It sounded like the ophthalmic version of the Seven Dwarves. 

But I was on the highway to nowhere. ‘A bit odd’ seemed the limit of her descriptive powers. I should have accepted it from the outset, I was losing before I had begun. 


About the author 

Jane Bates

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

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