Monday, July 18, 2011

the "family's doctor"

last night, OrthoMan got a phone call. you know - one of those calls. it was his sibling calling about their latest medical "emergency". well, there goes our night i sighed, and walked away.

we're pretty used to them now. OrthoMan was about 2 weeks into med school when my mom called to ask him his opinion on her latest thyroid test results. after that call, OrthoMan and I literally sat down and discussed how we would handle the inevitable family calls. at that point, he was still convinced he was going to be a small town family doc, so this was a real issue. i mean, this would be his livelihood. but then again, they're family! how can you not help your family?! the other hand, though, there are about 50,000 more negatives. we'd been warned by others not to get into the business of being your "family's doctor". but of course that was completely thrown out the window during 2nd year when Orthoman's dad needed to have emergency triple bypass surgery.

he fielded questions left and right from siblings, friends and relatives. he had his mom request additional copies of his dad's x-rays, EKGs, etc. (although orthoman *NEVER* questioned any of the treatments because his dad was working with a GREAT doctor). he followed everything so that he could synthesize the information and explain it to the rest of the family. he would get calls and emails daily asking him to explain this or give a "what's next" or "what if" scenario.

once we got through that, though, his side of the family started with the phone calls and questions. i've definitely noticed and uptick in the volume ever since he graduated. so what to do? im not supposed to get mad at an in-law for wanting his opinion. but honestly, i dont really like it when the "doctor" comes home instead of my husband. i mean, i love it when one of us is sick or hurt, but other than that, id almost rather it all stay at the hospital. because im not married to DOCTOR Orthoman. im married to orthoman.

is that unfair to say? is that wrong? maybe. but the fact of the matter is that id rather he leave his work at the hospital. it's half jealousy, half annoyance. but, when those calls come in, ive started to learn that i just need to walk away and do something entirely different... because let's face it. whether i like it or not, Orthoman is the family's doctor and that's not going to change.



  1. Here's what I learned from another Medical Spouse: "Love the Husband, Hate the Doctor."

  2. Most of our calls are from family and friends are mostly for prescriptions. We say yes to all but narcotics for family. Friends, it's a little different. He's more selective with what he'll fill for friends. We've actually lost friends over him not filling controlled substances for them.

    I guess we don't get that many opinion calls. When we do he just tries to be helpful. I guess it doesn't happen enough for me to have an opinion.

  3. There's definitely some legal ramifications involved in dispensing medical advice...keeping things simple, once you establish that doctor-patient relationship, it opens the floodgates for any type of litigation.

    Cases have gone before courts over whether setting a FIRST VISIT appointment constitutes a doctor-patient relationship. In that case, an individual made an appointment, became ill, and ended up dying, all without ever seeing the doctor in question, before the date of said appointment. The estate tried to sue the doctor but the court ruled that no doctor-patient relationship had yet existed. This has not yet been decided in all jurisdictions, so you could end up having to put up a costly defense (and thus raising your malpractice premiums).

    Courts have found doctor-patient relationships to exist when a primary care physician simply asked a specialist a question (in casual conversation outside working hours) regarding a patient, without the specialist ACTUALLY SEEING the patient in question. The specialist was fair game and the lawsuit moved forward, and yep, you guessed it, the specialist ended up paying through the nose.

    I say these things because I read so many cases in health care law that just *shock* the conscience. You have to be so careful when you dispense advice, especially outside the scope of the hospital, especially when you are a resident. Family might be fine, but I would keep it limited to close family (parents, in-laws, siblings).

    I fiercely protect my DH because he's invested a lot to get where he is and nothing would be worse than getting sued for just trying to help.

  4. we always ask if it's an emergency because we were in the middle of ____ can we call them back when we get done. That helps with it not intruding on our lives. We decided in Medical School he wouldn't write scrips for anyone for anything. Once you go down that road it's easy to get your arm twisted into writing something you shouldn't and then it's your job on the line. If something OTC can't cover it they can wait and see their primary care doctor. If they can't wait then go to the ER. It's what my dad told people and seemed to work. It's simple and once you make it known then you stop getting the calls about the "bad back" that just needs a few codine pills because they ran out and it's the weekend so they can't call their real doctor... People don't even call about refilling basic things like birth control, because they know the answer is going to be no.