The number one frustration of many family members with loved ones in the hospital is that doctors are so darn hard to find. "I can’t reach the doctor when I need to!" "The doctor didn’t show up when he said he would." "There are several doctors involved in my loved one’s case and there is no captain of the ship."
"Ask the patient’s primary nurse when the doctor is expected. Show up earlier and plan to wait".
Sound familiar? Here are a few simple strategies to help you actually connect with the doctor when you need to. The truth is, most people just don’t know how to reach the doctor.
Doctors aren’t purposely avoiding you, they are overwhelmed with the number of patients they see in their offices, in hospitals, and for surgeries and pressed for time to complete mountains of paperwork required by insurance companies for each patient.
5 Sure-Fire Ways To Reach The Patient’s Doctor
- Show up during doctor’s rounds at the hospital. Ask the patient’s primary nurse when the doctor is expected. Show up earlier and plan to wait. Come prepared with a list of questions you created with the patient. Doing a little research ahead of time to ask educated questions is always helpful. Both to you and to the physician.
- If you can’t show up for a face-to-face meeting during doctor’s rounds, call the patient’s primary nurse and ask that a note be placed in the patient’s chart asking that the doctor call you when he or she has finished seeing the patient. List your phone numbers and times you’re most available.
- Call during doctor’s rounds to make sure the patient’s doctor gets the message that you want a call back as soon as possible, even though you have already asked for a note to be placed in the patient’s chart.
- If the above ways don’t get you through to the doctor, fax a note to the doctor’s office with a request that he or she calls you as soon as possible. List your contact numbers and times you are available. Have your questions ready for that phone call when it comes.
- If all else fails, call the hospital social worker. Ask him or her to help facilitate this necessary phone call to the patient’s doctor. Explain the four ways you have already tried and emphasize that it is extremely important to speak to this doctor as soon as possible. Be polite and respectful.
If there is more than one doctor involved in your loved one’s case and you are hearing differing opinions about your loved one’s condition and are having trouble reaching these doctors, ask the patient’s primary doctor, nurse or case manager for a "group meeting" with all of the doctors and patient’s primary nurse. This group meeting is important if the patient is not doing well or if you and the patient are confused about diagnosis or treatment. Sitting in a room with each medical professional will help you gain a clear understanding about what is going on with the patient and will also help the medical professionals communicate face-to-face. If you have trouble getting this "group meeting" to take place, keep calling. Go through steps one through five again. It’s all about persistence.
Martine Ehrenclou, MA, is the author of Critical Conditions: The Essential Hospital Guide To Get Your Loved One Out Alive. For more, go to