Wake your attending

We don’t always know enough to help a patient heal from a disease or illness. In medicine, we don’t always have all the answers.

But other times, we totally do. In fact, there is a group of people called attending physicians who are employed by hospitals to have lots of answers and to provide guidance in times of medical uncertainty.

Today, our conference room in Telluride housed some of the most accomplished nurses, medical students, and young doctors in American healthcare. Many individuals shared stories of hesitating to page on-call physician late at night. Providers and nurses hesitated to page because they did not want to be perceived as incompetent, or perhaps more upsettingly, they did not want to suffer any untoward consequences form waking or disturbing the on-call doc.

This mindset needs to end. Attending physicians and on-call doctors are paid by the hospital to provide guidance and oversee care of medical cases – this is their job. If there is not absolute certainty on the best way to proceed with a patient’s medical treatment, more experienced providers must be contacted, regardless of the time of day.

No staff member should ever fear untoward consequences for paging a doctor or seeking help. If staff members really do fear retribution from seeking help, this is a grave issue to that needs to be addressed by upper management immediately.