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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To call the Dr. or not to call, that is the dilemma

Here's something you will come across from time to time if you work nights. Of course as all RTs may have noticed by now, there often seems to be no rhyme or reason to "some" doctor orders, nor consistency to how a doctor will respond to a request to change the order.

Consider the following example:

The patient is a 75 YO non-COPD post operative patient with a registered SpO2 of 88% at 3-o-clock in the morning. Mind you, I did say three a.m. The patient is in no respiratory distress, and has no respiratory history. Otherwise, his vitals are normal. The order is for 2lpm. What do you do?
  1. Call the doctor and wake him up
  2. Increase the oxygen to 3lpm and have the RN call the doctor in the morning
  3. Ignore the spo2 and pretend you didn't see it as the patients SpO2 probably always drops while he is sleeping
  4. Since the SpO2 has an accuracy of plus/minus two, assume actual reading is 90%

Okay, what's your guess?

Day #1: This night the RT decides to use his common decides "b" is the best solution. The patient is stable and no harm done. If the patient's SpO2 was at a critical level, then a call to the doctor would be warranted, but not in this case.

The next day when the RT arrived at work he was lectured by said doctor who said, "Why do I write orders if you're not going to follow them?"

Day #2: Different patient but same information; different doctor, but this doctor is the spouse of the doctor in the scenario above. What does he do now?

Using the same choices above, since the RT now knows option #2 is not good, he decides to go with option #1 and wake up the doctor. The doctor says, "Why the hell are you waking me up at 3 in the morning to tell me this?"

"Um," says the RT, "Because yesterday, same scenario, your husband told me that I have to call before I increase oxygen to get an order."

"Oh," she says, "Well, then increase it to 3lpm and leave it at that."

"Well, then can we..."

Click. The doctor was no longer available.

"...get an order for protocol just in case... oh, what the heck.

So, what is the best thing to do in a scenario like this? Well, based on my experience, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, so you might as well wake the doctor up and let her lecture you about how idiotic you are.

Thus, RN Cave Rule #72:

If you think you better call the doctor you better call him. If you think the doctor might yell at your and tell you you are an idiot because he doesn't want to be irritated in the middle of the night, call him anyway.


Steve said...

You actually have doctors that see their patients when they're in the Hospital?

Primary care or specialty physicians, never follow their own patients in the hospital out here.

Out here we have what they call "Hospitalists". Basically physicians who manage patients while they're hospitalized.

I guess if theres a problem with an order, they just call who is ever on-call at the time.

Im from the old school, where your personal doctor took care of you IN and OUT of the hospital.

Steve said...

OH..And Congrats on all the clicks!da