Light Night Medical Care
We have all been in a position where it is either after hours or the weekend and we need our doctor for something. Maybe we realize we are out of a prescription and don’t have any refills left or we need to ask some advice about something going on. The office is closed, so what can we do?
Not always available
Most offices have after-hours services that can help with a variety of things. This doesn’t mean that they can help with everything. How do after-hours work and what should you expect? When you have heart failure, you may expect to have doctors at your disposal 24 hours a day when you have issues, but that isn’t always the case.
Talk to a nurse
The best thing that can come from the after-hours line is if you can talk to a nurse to get some care advice. This advice you get will be based on your symptoms and when you need to be seen or if it can be taken care of at home. Expect that the nurse will not have access to your medical records. Advice given will be based on your symptoms and not on what you have a history of.
If your complaint is chest pain and is it serious, you will probably be told to call 911 even if you have a history of chest pain. This is because after-hours nurses will always err on the side of caution. Chest pain could be a heart attack. It is not safe for the nurse to assume you are having your “normal” chest pain.
So, if you call for symptoms, don’t be surprised if you are given advice that seems a bit excessive if you are used to having some symptoms. However, for many symptoms, as long as they aren’t life-threatening, you can get advice on when to be seen and some suggestions on how to feel better until you are seen.
One thing that can be hit or miss after hours is medication. Don’t expect any form of antibiotics, with the exception of lost or spilled antibiotics. Most doctors will not prescribe these without being seen in the office. Also, the on-call doctor isn’t always your personal doctor and won’t know your history.
You also shouldn’t expect refills to be called in after hours. The best thing you can do is ask your pharmacy for a loaner or emergency dose until you can get the refill called in. Again, this comes back to your doctor not always being on call. The on-call doctor may not know if this is part of your treatment plan and doesn’t want to call in the wrong medication.
This is not meant to discourage you from calling after hours. If you feel like you need help after hours, then I encourage you to call. What I want you to understand, is that you may not get the help you want after hours.
This is not the fault of the person you are talking to; they are simply relaying information to you that the office has set up for them. If you can’t get refills, medications, or talk to the on-call doctor, these are the rules the practice has set in place for the after-hours staff.
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