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Is There a Doctor In the House?

Is There a Doctor In the House?

Member Discussion & Survey


Is there such a thing as a real day off for healthcare professionals?

Frequent news headlines about off-duty medical practitioners saving lives remind us that our members may find themselves called upon for assistance when they least expect it. And on a more typical day, family and friends may turn to you with questions and concerns about their health.

So can you switch off from being a healthcare professional, even for one day? We invite you to share your experiences and opinions on this subject by answering our poll questions and joining the discussion below.

(Please click the "vote" button after answering each question)

Have you ever been at a public place (e.g., arena, restaurant, mall) and responded to a request for spontaneous medical attention?

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Have you ever hesitated to provide off-duty medical care because of potential legal repercussions?

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Have you refrained from introducing yourself as a healthcare professional in anticipation of unsolicited medical questions?

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Does being a medical professional make it more or less difficult to offer support to a friend or family member with a serious illness?

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Is your career a job or a way of life?

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Join the Discussion
We encourage you to share your experiences and opinions regarding this topic by submitting a comment below.

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60 Responses

  1. Glenn Wolfe


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  2. chetna bhattacharyya

    is epocrates planning on starting a physician chat room soon so we can ask our peers questions/consultations?

    many thanks,
    dr b

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  3. A I Prefer, M.D.

    I’ve finally figured out how to greet patients I meet outside of the office…”so nice to see you”, I have to leave out the customary “how are you?”, as they take it as an open invitation to rattle off everything that’s happened since I last saw them. What a shame.

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  4. Bret

    I was driving through wyoming 3 winters ago and stopped for a family who had been in an obvious rollover due to black ice.
    I opened the door to the van and saw people and stuff everywhere. Everone on initial quick inspection appeared to be OK except for grandma who had back and chest discomfort and some bad lacerations. We compressed her wounds to stop bleeding… during this same time a GMC Yukon hit the same ice and barrelled right at the van we were in. Luckily the Yukon shifted paths as it rolled or the damage could have been much worse. I evaluated these people also and as I finished the paramedics arrived. I explained the injuries, the cause, and what I had done. I was surprised at the response I received. The paramedics acted irritated that I was there and that I had done anything. No “thank you” but more of a territorial response.
    I am a family practitioner. And I was a resident at the time. Surely I don’t know the “field” medicine like a paramedic but I was surprised at the reception I received to doing the right things and I am surprised at some of the comments towards MDs in these opinions.

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  5. Advocate

    It’s about time Epocates address all of the HCPs out here who are not MDs. Whether they realize it or not, WE are the people who do most of the caring for patients around here. Epocrates is interested in MDs ONLY because physicians write scripts and this keeps all the pharma companies $$$$$$ rolling into Epocrates’ pockets. Well, guess what? We have more PAs and NPs providing patient care AND writing scripts at my practice than MDs!

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  6. Susan

    I concur with Debra about the physician-oriented title to this survey. It may have been language that was linked to a known phrase of the past, but healthcare service delivery is a great deal larger than physicians these days and your writers should have considered this when picking a title supposedly addressed to healthcare providers. It may be instructional to review your entire site to note the number of places where you specifically address physicians but not other healthcare providers. Is this consistent with your mission and values? Is this consistent with the share of revenue non-physician clinicians bring into your company? I think your product is great but hope you will consider reaching out to your whole consumer audience, not just MDs.

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  7. Robert

    I think Debra over-reacted a little bit on this article. The title would have been too long to include “Is there a NP, PA, or doctor in the house?”

    On another note, I am a new Family NP grad working in a retail medicine setting. My family and friends often come to me with different medical concerns. Many of them are too complex for me to address (perhaps they are seeing a specialist for something and ask me questions about it), or even those that I can address often times require actual prescriptions or further tests. The question usually comes up: “can’t you just prescribe me something?” My response is “sure, just come visit my office and I can check you out and prescribe something if I feel it’s appropriate.” Most people don’t understand that we (medical professionals) don’t just carry around a prescription pad, and that we can’t write them a prescription outside of the office setting. Furthermore, without the proper history and physical, you run the risk of telling the person to do the wrong thing, meaning liability OUTSIDE your office setting. I normally try to give people general good health information and tell them to see a provider. I do enjoy being a great source of health information for my family and friends; then again, the most important things that you can tell them are things like “stop smoking,” and that advice falls on deaf ears, coming from someone close to them. You win some, you lose some!

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  8. Elizabeth S. MS

    Having enjoyed the stories shared here I have to agree that this is a way of life. After practicing as an RN for almost 12 years I am now licensed as an NP. I work with Hospice and in legal nurse consulting (full time). Even though the majority of my time is spent in a law office, I am still called upon to provide medical advice and care. I have attorneys who come to me to have their blood pressure taken and then tell me about the results of their colonoscopy (!) and I ‘ve had employees walk in, pull up the leg of their pants and show me a wound! Life can be interesting as the only medical professional in the building.
    Thinking I would like to learn more about law and possibly go to law school to be a “Nurse Lawyer”, I took a full time position in a large law practice on a medical malpractice team. However, what I am doing is offering my medical opinion on cases all day long and have now been asked to develop a wellness program for our employees! So, no, there is no escape! I’ve helped in groceries stores, accident scenes, school sporting events and once in the parking lot of a bar after closing when an elderly man took a nasty tumble in the parking lot. I sat inside as someone came in and said someone had fallen. My boyfriend looked at me and said “you stay here.” The next plea was for someone who knew CPR and I HAD to go! Luckily the man was breathing but unconscious and had struck his head and was bleeding. I had my boyfriend grab my medical supplies from the trunk of the car and EMS showed up just in time as the man came to swinging! As I kneeled on the ground next to him, trying to keep him from hitting me or hurt himself, in an icy rain no less, all I could think is that perhaps I should have chosen law first….!

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  9. Rob Lozina, RN FNP-S

    I enjoyed reading Dean’s comments. Asking if there is a “ the house” that is a very 1950’s way of thinking. Just as the public is getting over the shock of a man being a nurse!I am an RN, working in homecare, and graduating from a MS Family Nurse Practitioner program this May. I realize the importance, as the ever widening gap in primary care prevails, of public awareness of NP’s and PA’s. The pharma companies are catching on by saying in their commercials, “contact your healthcare provider” rather than “contact your doctor.” This is the respectful thing to do, recognizing that, yes, physicians are treating patients but we are also. NP’s and PA’s exist because there is an ever-growing need for us, and we should be welcomed and respected in a collegial manner by our physician counterparts.

    We have a responsibility to conduct ourselves professionally as well, so that the public understands our role, and trusts us with their health.

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  10. Jack

    Our 2nd trans-Atlantic flight got exciting when a lady developed chest pain, sweats etc-looked like the real thing. We were asked to decide if we should land in Newfoundland or proceed across the ocean! We dumped fuel and landed-everyone’s schedule was ruined. SAS airline gave us 2 nice bottles of wine and we got to keep them.
    Some kind of active, non medicine hobby is important. It doesn’t have to be fly fishing etc. But something that takes your mind completely(almost)off medicine for awhile.
    The trouble is that we are too busy.

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  11. Karen

    Kimberly Allen’s comments made me think of the airline medical situation that I attended to as a FNP student. I helped the passenger who only needed evaluation by paramedics once we hit the ground and then f/u with their regular provider (the person had a scheduled visit the next day) and the usual if getting worse go to the ER/ED.
    Did I get any thanks from anybody? The person and significant other, yes, but the airlines…no, not one thank you very much!
    It was enough for me to have gratitude on the part of the people I helped.
    Should airlines/restaraunts, etc give extra special treatment to those of us in the medical field? I wonder about that…I think a simple thank you is sufficient.

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  12. Karen

    I live in a remote town in rural Alaska and am a Family Nurse Practitioner. I’ve been a nurse for nearly 10 years now and in the medical field for 16.
    I’ve been asked for my opinion on medical questions from friends/family and the general public (unsolicited).
    My general rule is that I always preface my answers by saying that if there is a concern about the person’s health that they really need to be seen in a clinical setting. If the problem is something like a cold or the like I will offer the standard anwers for getting well, but tell the person that if they have other health problems (that I don’t want to know about…especially from family members…close family connections is one thing, but I do not want to know all about my brothers’ health problems…yikes!) that they really need to be evaluated at the clinic for a proper history and PE.
    In an emergency situation I will step up and help PRN. However, I have had surgery on my low back, so there are some things that I cannot do. If there are others standing nearby I will utilize them for things like a Heimlich manuever on an obese person, etc.
    Airlines in our area often rely on there being a medical provider on any given flight, the flight attendants know who is a doctor, nurse, paramedic, etc and will come get us! The hazards of small town living!
    Do I ever feel like I really get a break? Yup. When I am out at camp with no communication device within 50 miles! Thats when I get a true break.

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  13. Jeff

    I think that this is something that the general public has limited knowledge due to inaccurate portrayal of the medical field thanks to shows like ER, Gray’s Anatomy, etc… I have seen it once in a restaurant where someone yelled out that famous saying, “Is there a Doctor in the house!!” I was about to get up when an middle aged gentleman stepped up to assist. I slowly got up thinking that this other person was an MD. When his questioning made no sense I politely asked him what his specialty was. Being that this is a small town with a university he responded with something about having his Phd in History!!! I adivsed him I was a Paramedic, asked him to step back and call 911 if he wanted to help. He was more than happy to relinquish care (go figure!!) I main lesson I learned out of this was to ALWAYS ask for everyone’s speciality if they offer to assist. Maybe someone else there is better qualified to help but that may not always be the case….

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  14. Dean

    I have been a paramedic and a RN for many years. Almost 30. It amazes me that the same mentality continues in so many places. “Is there a doctor in the house?” I realize this is an established saying in America, but come on. Who provides most of the care outside the hospital in this country. I’m not saying they should practice medicine but who would you rather have in that dark alley; a paramedic or a MD (which apparently in NY it would be a psychiatrist). How many people are provided in home care because nurses still make house calls? Give us guys in the trenches a break. “Is ther medical personell in the house?” By the way, I use and promote epocrates heavily. Thanks for the product.

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  15. Nalini

    I too loved Cynthia’s story. I worry about giving answers to medical questions from my patients & my family. Patient’s seem to want to make sure their physician is doing the right type of work up etc. It’s hard not to jump in and offer your opinion. I am also afraid I will be the only physician nearby, what if something I do is no longer the standard of care? After all it’s been nearly 20 years since medical school graduation.

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  16. Dr Michelle Condon

    I’ve helped at auto crashes, done basic first aid for someone in status seizure, and spent 3 hours on a jetliner’s floor giving IV fluids to a hypotensive gastroenteritis patient while returning from Fiji (I was treated VERY well by the flight staff), patched up fellow divers, and sewn up friend’s with and without insurance on my dining room table. Being a doc is an intrinsic part of who I am. In spite of the hassles and what can seem like constant criticism from the media, I love who I am and what I am able to do for others. Yes, it can be stressful but it is beautiful vocation to be able to share one’s life and gifts to decrease pain and suffering. We physicians will always find a place to work and can reinvent ourselves and how we “practice” according to our personal and professional circumstances.

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  17. Kabuki girl

    I worked as a family practitioner for 2 years and am now doing my residency. And I have to say that although medicine IS a way of life, and most of the time I’m happy to help those around me, there DOES come a time when it gets to be too much. When people start spouting out symptoms and worries as soon as they see you, showing you their slightly assymetrical arms or “that annoying rash” that came out of nowhere, like if you had nothing else to talk about. After working 60 hour weeks for 2 years, all i wanted when I saw my family and non-medical friends was to talk about SOMETHING ELSE, and hopefully forget about medicine for just one day. I had to get nasty to get my point across :(. Not proud of it.

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  18. samuel

    In the the true noble sense of the profession Medical profession is a way of life rather than just being a job,in which case depending on the healthcare faciity you are working you are responsible to the profession instead of the job

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  19. Marcia

    I think the most difficult we have is not to help someone when we’re out of duty, but to confront public opinion of those who’s around in the street, those people who comes around only to see the disaster that happened and wants you to do what his neighbor or his friend said that’s good! Here, in Brazil, that’s really common and brings real trouble!

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  20. Dolly

    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on this subject. I recently became an NP after over 20 years as an RN. One thing that has blown my mind is that people don’t seem to get the difference between being an RN and a nurse practitioner. I have almost given up explaining the difference. A friend of mine called me recently to tell me about an LPN job in the paper! Those of you in the profession know what I am talking about. I have 4 years of college and 3 of grad school…unlike the 9 months of LPN school required! Anyway, I have always offered to help if I came upon an accident or medical emergency and have been happy to do it…but like most of you, got mixed responses from the EMT’s/paramedics…some appreciative, most not. I love the nursing profession - I enjoy the science of it and realize that a huge reponsibility comes with its priveledge.
    One thing I have noticed (and I have wondered if others have, too) is that the general public has slight disdain for the medical and nursing professions…that is, until they need them. For example, my daughter in law is into holistic medicine (herbs, reiki, etc) and refutes the need for western medicine - that is until she or one of her children is actually sick…then she panics and runs to the nearest medical clinic for guidance and prescriptions. Also, when people ask me for medical advice, they don’t always like what they hear, so they act somewhat put out. Interestingly, my husband is a lawyer and gets asked legal questions quite frequently at parties…..he doesn’t seem to mind. I think being in medicine is much the same…except we are dealing with life & death issues at times. Then there is the problem of liability….so I have learned to preface or end each consultation with “You really need to see your healthcare professional or call my office & see me asap.” By the way, I agree with those that have had a problem with the question “Is there a doctor in the house?” We need to change our language to fit the milieu… we should be speaking in politically correct language….”healthcare professional or provider” instead of doctor. On a humorous note….some of my patients call me “doctor” and though I correct them, they continue. I suppose a rose is still a rose……

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  21. Melinda

    I am a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner who does house calls. I go to adult care homes or private homes. The clientele is very challenging; dementia COPD etc..
    I often get calls from children wanting to know results etc.. about their parents. I do not mind this at all! What I do mind is that I can’t bill medicare for a phone consultation on these calls. How many lawyers do you know that spend 30 mins on a phone regarding business and don’t bill it? Or the patient who needs to talk or all the labs I order because a carehome calls and says someone has odor to their urine etc.. The medicare system and other systems make it so that good MD’s and other healthcare providers cannot make a good living and still give prompt care to their patients. It makes no sense that I can’t place a person who just needs a little support back at home with a week or so of care from a nursing service but that same person can go to nursing home without a problem. Well now I am going off subject!

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  22. Epocrates

    In response to Debra, the article was called “Is there a Doctor in the House?” because that’s a cliched phrase. However, we warmly welcome all our members to join this discussion. Indeed, we’d be interested to know how those of you who are not physicians feel about responding to calls for a “doctor”.

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  23. Billy Jones

    I am not a health care professional I am an elderly male who greatly appreciates my Physicians and Nurses. I am carefull in my choice of Physicians. (Caps on purpose.) Once I chose a Physician, I work hard at creating an atmosphere of mutual respect. Having two daughters in the medical profession (RN and HMO Mgr), I marvel at the work and dedication needed to get through medical school. Patients complain about the limited time that they have with their Physicians, but do nothing to organize information needed (symptoms, meds and otc junk taken) for proper analysis and diagnosis. They also fail to recognize that the Physician must spend a lot of time on their medical records after each visit. This is an absolute necessity for any good Physician. Having spent my life in electronics, (Gee, my TV is ill can you diagnose the fault here in Target?) I sympathize with Physicians and accordingly never say more than..wonderful to see you. How is the family and the new puppy. Bless everyone in the medical profession. It is tough to get there and a difficult job when you arrive. You may publish this or not, but it feels good to say thanks where many medical professionals may see it.

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  24. Kimberly Allen

    I am a Family Nurse Practitioner and have been called upon for help more than once. One time while in a restaraunt a server started having a massive seizure and on my way to the restroom I heard the commotion and decided to see if I could help. After several minutes of providing medical support and protecting the mans airway and head, my husband who is a physician, walks by while looking for me and confirm it is a seizure. He does nothing else while I remain on the ground. After the ambulance arrives the restaurant serves my husband a free meal and thank him multiple times. I did not even receive a free dessert. I guess that is how it goes the nurse is always in the shadows. Another time we were on a flight from San Diego when I noticed a bunch of commotion in first class and shortly after the flight attendants were calling for any medcial personel. Because we had children with us I woke my husband up and asked if he wanted to go see what was going on. As with the above story he had to produce a copy of his liscense before even seeing the passenger. The passenger had end stage pancreatic cancer and was dehydrated and in shock. The plane was well equipped with many medical supplies from an AED, intubation kit, cental line kit, IV supplies and fluids. Also on the plane were 2 other nurses. Shortly after my husband went to first class the flight attendant came and asked me to come up front. They were needing to start an IV and the other health care professionals were not successful. I was able to start the IV and we got fluids started. Our plane was able to make it to its original destination and did not have to divert. This was possible because we stayed by the passengers side and monitored him the entire flight. At the end of the flight we did not even get a thank you from the airline. I thought it was pretty shallow since we prevented the plane from having to make an emergency landing and re-direct 400 peoples flight. We did get a nice note from the gentelemens wife stating he did pass away 4 days later but it was because of us he was able to make it home. That is what makes it worth always “being on call”

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  25. Nachum

    medicine is a calling not a job adn thoughof time is essential, i believe there isno such thing as conincidence. the good Lord runs the world and if he placed me at a certain place and time and i cna help another life it is my resposbibility and there is no way i could walk away and do nothing. all i need to do is think about what i woudl want someone else to do if my child was on the receiving end and there was a health care provider who wlaked away. it cna be inconvenient, i recently was called on to give a woman shots three nights in a row as her husband had gone to a ball game in his old hometown. they came ot my home and occupied a not insiginificant poriton of our evening. i would nto say it was a pleasure but i was happy to be able to do it and even gave her some advice as to how, wiht her doctors permission, learn to do it herself and not be dependinet onanyone, even her husband. to my pleasent surprise the nex t weekend someone showed up at my door with a beutiful vase filled with magnificent flowers, the “bill’ was paid in full. not the flowers, but the appreciation more tha made up forany time and inconvenience. the day w become providrs adn not doctors, nurses, PA’s etc., is the day we shouls join another profession. as to the queestions at partys, i jus ttell them why don’t you drop your pants and climb up on thise table here next to the cheese and crackers and i will take a look. that usually stops all further questions. htough there was that one time when the lady did get up on the table and …. just kidding

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  26. Nathan

    I joined a group to avoid being on call 24/7. I hate that I am still expected to be ready to jump into action. This is just one of the many things that would have prevented me from becoming a doctor had I been thinking clearly.

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  27. Debra

    My first comment: Why is this article called “Is there a doctor in the house?”

    Doctors are not the only healthcare professional and this continued acknowledgement granting attitudes of superiority has to stop. There are Nurse Practitioners who have been granted authority by the federal government to practice healthcare and 17 States allow them to practice within their rightful full scope of practice. No-one “owns” medicine. We practice health care within the field of medicine. Medicine is derived from scientific inquiry which is publicly paid for (Nieuwkoop, 2003).

    That is all I can say, I am too schocked at the discrimination to share my story.

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  28. Liz RN

    This story is that of a neurosurgeon that I work with. While on call he was a bystander at the scene of a multi-vehicle trauma. He told the paramedics at the scene to intubate one of the patients, that they needed to hyperventilate to blow off CO2 (we were still doing that routinely), only to be looked at skeptically. They loaded the patient into the rig and proceeded to the hospital. Their note contained his instructions–”bystander claiming to be neurosurgeon. . .” They had not heeded his wishes in route. Imagine the look on their faces when they entered the trauma bay only to be met by the on-call neurosurgeon.

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  29. Betty Bennett

    I am a nurse practitioner with my own private practice in a small suburban community. I have many patients for whom I have been primary care provider for over 10 years. Many feel entitled to call when they have medical needs if the office is closed. They will typically call me rather than the on call provider. I can’t say that I mind, since my I believe that my profession is a calling to provide services. God has blessed me and I feel priviledged to share care with those who need. My husband, however, is of the mind that my time off should be his time. This sometimes causes issues.

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  30. Barbara

    Cynthia, I LOVED your story - only in New YorK!

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  31. Ahmad Haq

    When asked ” doc when do you take time off ?” My answer is, never. However I do not have any regrets. I used to get annoyed in the past when I felt too much demand on my time, but with the passage of time I have come to relish the privilege of being able to see patients and in the process make many friends.

    A.T.H. ( internal medicine )

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  32. Cynthia

    A few years ago I was visiting New York City for the first time and got stuck in the subway during the great blackout. The entire time I worried someone would have a medical emergency and I, a psychiatrist, would be the only doctor. After a couple hours with no events, the NYPD rescued us and we were making our way out, when we came across a collapsed woman surrounded by police. I heard another woman offer her help as a doctor so with great relief I continued on my way. But after a few minutes, I turned back, thinking guiltily that if it were me, I’d want some help. It turned out the other doctor was just an intern, in psychiatry. The patient was having classic symptoms of a panic attack as well as asthma. Still, I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t an MI and told the police to call paramedics. In the meantime another doctor arrived to help. Good, I thought, maybe he’s cardiologist. He was a psychiatry resident. I sent him to get albuterol and lorazepam from the pharmacy. The patient did fine. Paramedics never came and after two hours she walked home. As I walked the 52 blocks back to my hotel, I thought: Only in New York! A woman has a panic attack, and three psychiatrists show up to help!

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  33. Bill

    I’m a family practice doc with extensive prior military experience treating trauma patients. I now work in a large rural practice with several physicians and mid-level providers.
    To the question do you ever have time off? Yes, but only if you’re in a call-sharing group for evening/weekend call rotations, hospital rounds, etc.
    As to providing medical care in emergencies, yes I do it but I stay within my capabilities, and stay only until competent medical assistance arrives and assumes care. Frequently I just assess the situation, see that a physician isn’t needed, and move on without ever identifying myself as a doctor.
    As to people asking for medical advice, how I respond depends on the situation. But think about it — have you ever asked your car mechanic, electrician, plumber, or other tradesman for free advice? How about your accountant or lawyer?

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  34. Mike

    I have only been solicited once, while on a Delta flight. The young lady, with history of colon resection, ultimately was having a panic attack. But my experience was less than gratifying. When I pushed the flight attendant call button to let them know a “doctor was in the house,” I was met with skepticism. I first had to produce my license, lucky for the passenger I happen to have a wallet size copy. Next, the flight attendant staff were almost hostile to the passenger, like how dare she disrupt this flight. After 10 min of questioning the passenger, the crew finally offered up some basic medical equipment, like a stethescope. When it was all said and done, they took my personal information and sent me back to me seat. Not so much as even a thankyou…but that’s ok. To top it all off, as a I was waiting for the crew to take my information, the passenger asked me what kind of doctor I was, and I told her I was an OB/Gyn. Then came the “oh, by the way. I have had a hysterectomy several years ago, should I still be having vaginal bleeding?”…..Drink pleaese!

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  35. roger jenkins

    I practiced as a family physician for 37 years. The practice of medicine is both a gift and a hugh responsibility. I have happened on several auto accidents and once on a Delta flight, to help people and never was concerned about lawsuits having had only one in all my years of practice (I won). Well over 95% of my patients were respectful of my family and private time. All the after-hours came from at most 15 patients. Several, even when ill, would not disturb my home time.
    Rarely has a patient bothered me or my family in public other than to say “Hi, Doc.” One time I saw an injured motorcyclist with a neck injury and with the aid of a state patrolman, stabilized him until the squad arrived. I was thanked later by his brother who was one of my medics in the Guard. You never know!
    Thanks for the opportunity to share my experiences.

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  36. Carolyn

    My husband and I are often called upon to help. A couple of months ago we helped a flight crew with a drunk passenger that they thought was having a seizure. After getting them through the flight, the airline gave us 2 nice bottles of wine as a thank-you. Only a few yards later, at airport security to a connecting flight, they were taken away and tossed in the trash. Sigh.

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  37. Joseph

    As a neurosurgeon, my practice is a way of life. I am a member of a large group, but even when off, I can expect calls regarding patients that are readmitted or being evaluated in local ERs. The only time I am really off is when I travel internationally. When traveling, I usually don’t offer information about my job, but I have responed to requests for medical assistance on planes and in restaurants.

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  38. Michael Mayor, MD

    A way of life, a calling, without a doubt. And, one of the grandest burdens in existence, too. I was not fully aware of the weight until, after forty years in orthopaedics, I took retirement from clinical practice and went to focus on family (ten grandchildren) and research (adjunct prof at the Engineering School at Dartmouth). I’m an inveterate volunteer, and ran the EMT debriefing at the Center for a decade to give the field personnel feedback on how they did, and how their patients did after they delivered them to the ED. Sure, people ask for advice. Since retirement, I field several questions a month from old patients, their relatives, my relatives and friends. Gave my brother advice just this morning about a twisted knee of his. It’s what I chose to do when med school decided to let me join the profession, whether it’s in the exquisitely controlled environs of the OR, or in the hurly-burly of the roadside. It’s all people in need of the best help available, and I’m always happy to cede responsibility to those better equipped.

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  39. Rose

    Several years ago I started taking art classes as a “Save Rose’s sanity” campaign. I am an intensive care nurse. I have continued and am now at the point that I consider being an artist to be my avocation. Most of my fellow artists know that I am a nurse and will approach me with questions concerning results of a test that they have undergone or effects of a med that has been prescribed for them. These questions I usually fend off by reassuring them and referring them back to their physician. I did have one episode where one of my fellow artists claims that I saved her life. I recognized the symptoms of what turned out to be rapid atrial tach and got her into the EMS system before she probably would have turned to it herself. I like to think that I saved her from more hours of discomfort than she would have endured had I not been there at the right time. As far as emergent situations in a public place are concerned, I have been fortunate enough to not be the first witness to such events, thus far.

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  40. Jennifer Scott ARNP-BC

    I think that the art of medicine is a lifestyle. I have responded to emergent situations when no one was around. In response to uninvited medical advice I usually say in a joking manner “I’ll send you my consultation fee in the mail!” Most get the hint and smile. I really love helping patients. I live for the times that patients tell me what a difference that I’ve made. It makes the bad times worthwhile.

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  41. Desmond Gunatilaka

    I am South Asian by birth and prctice in a suburban community. There are a large number of fellow countrymen/countrywomen in this area. The assumption amongst them is that they could call on me anytime for medical advice for themselves or their friends(being a subspecialist 99.9% of them are not my patients). Also the request for free medications are frequent. I now have my home number/cell phone number not available to anyone except my office staff and family. I also avoid social gatherings in community for that reason.
    I would like my free time to spend with my family and relax.

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  42. prakash rai

    I am a physician and i have opted for it out of choice.Attending to emergencies while off duty is always welcome but primary consultations at odd times and locations is definite no.

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  43. GAK, MD

    I have done this many times. I just wish that occasionally somebody would bother to look me up later to say thanks. Did happen many years ago when i rescued a young hippie off some rocks near the golden gate bridge and took him in to a hospital where he later was found to have a ruptured spleen. About a year later he showed up at my back door with some cookies he had baked. It was a really nice gesture, but I wasn’t too sure he hadn’t borrowed the recipe from Alice B. Toklas, so alas, I accepted but didn’t eat, the cookies.
    I would much rather give advice than listen to people tell me of their encounter with another physician because they think it might interest me.

    Thanks to all the above for your stories.

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  44. anna

    Yes, this is a way of life, it is difficult to handle at times, but on the whole, rewarding. I only respond to emergencies when no one else is there to assist, if I see law enforcement or emergency personnel, I assume the problem is being handled. I have been know to hide behind a display when I spy an over talkative patient in the next isle over. My family has been well trained not to offer what their mother’s profession is to avoid the routine request for consultation. I practice 80 miles from my home but if I stop in a shop on my way home from work, it never fails I meet a patient and usually offer advice which includes, come see me in the office for this if the need warrents.

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  45. Mary Walker

    I am a nurse practitioner in a small town, I work at a clinic that serves both insured and uninsured, but many of our clients have no insurance. I can make a huge difference in their health outcomes by helping them obtain affordable medicines, encouraging them to participate in preventive practices, etc. So many times, clients have expressed that they appreciate the fact that I listen to them. To see blood pressures and blood sugars to goal is great. I feel that what I do is a gift from God and I never tire of it. What sucks the life out of me and takes away from my personal time is the administrative and documentation portion that makes me a slave to my job. I have been known to write a RX in Walmart, but usually I just smile and tell them to “call Becki, I’ll be glad to take care of that at the office”. Finding balance is my biggest challenge-time for me and my family.

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  46. Chris Loman

    I’m a small town Doc and of course either my face or name are well known. In some ways its a blessing and in others its a curse. My family refuses to go with me to our local Walmart. I run into a patient about every 6 feet. Of course service is great, but a 10 minute trip usually takes 1 hour. After 20 years, I’m used to it by now, but my children still give me a good ribbing about it. The last time I went to Walmart with my eldest son I was again approached by a patient. Little did I know that my children had started timing me to see how fast after I went through the doors I would get stopped. After I said goodbye to the patient, my son smiled and whispered that it had taken only 20 seconds from entry which established a new record. Of course he then took off so he could shop in peace and I looked up and waved politely when I saw the next patient coming towards me.

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  47. Bill

    “Hey, I got a question for ya.” Whenever I hear that, I know what’s coming.

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  48. Michael R Engelsgjerd

    Several years ago I was taking my 6 year old son back to his mother’s house. On the way out of the rural county I came upon an accident before first responders had arrived. My son observed, wide-eyed, from the car as I assisted with the extrication of a poor fellow who had to be cut (by me with a scalpel) out of the wreckage which had penetrated his posterior thighs and buttocks. He was airlifted to a hospital and survived. I would do it again, gladly. I always stop at any emergency to share my emergency skills. P.S. The fellow’s lawyer tried to establish a patient-doctor relationship by offering a fee for my service. You will have to guess why they wanted to do that. I responded that there was no fee for my ‘good samaritan’ efforts.

    It is a privilege to be able to practice medicine. I treat anyone in sudden need as if they were my family member and do what I would want any skilled person to do for them.

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  49. liz

    try being a dermatologist at any social function. You want to see people remove their garmets in a hurry? It’s obscene! I can’t really lie about it since my husband’s face gives me away and frankly I worked hard and why should I hide what I’m proud of? But it’s beyond any chutzpah you can imagine what people feel entitled to elicit from you in a social situation. That’s why we (medical types) tend to clump together. And forget about living anywyere NEAR your service area. I used to have that situation and folks thought nothing of queing up on my porch as I sat trying to sip a bit of Joe. But retirement is not far off. I did however, once sucessfully perform a heimlich manuever in a restaurant ON MY NURSE! It was totally textbook, throat holding, panicked facies, and the physics of it worked beautifully. Once, very sadly on a long ago Friday 13 close to Christmas I stopped at the scene of a little girl’s hit and run. I was first on the scene in a blinding rainstorm. I gave CPR on total autopilot until EMS came. The horror of it (the five year old child died hours later in tertiary care) didn’t register until hours later. Colleagues told me that my efforts gave the baby’s parents a chance to say goodbye. I still felt like SH– for many days. Her mother had gotten stuck in holiday traffic (she’d been Christmas shopping) and the child got scared when the bus dropped her off and was hit when she tried to cross the road. Despicable tragedy. I remember vividly as I gave the first breath it was like blowing air through a straw in a full glass of liquid. There was that much pulmonary fluid. Anyway - a long winded saga of a 30 year career. Wouldn’t change anything except that last sad encounter………

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  50. Robert Meneses MD

    I was on a flight From Rome to Sicily when an announcement was made on board the plane asking if there is a doctor on board. A woman was having breathing problems. I stood up , identified myself and offered to look at the woman . The woman was having an asthma attack and was in a panic because she couldnt breathe. She also spoke Sicilian. Fortunately , I spoke both Italian and Sicilian. and I was able to get the woman to calm down and helped her with her inhaler and o2 and stayed with her during the duration of the flight. The passengers were all thankful and a quite a bit surprised that an American doctor from the upstate NY spoke Sicilian and Italian. I told them that I lived in Sicily for 3 months and picked up the languages.
    I got a nice tie and a nice thank you card from Alitalia.

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  51. kevin

    ON my first trip to europe and I heard the page: “is there a doctor on board”
    I was the only one to respond. I am a elderly psychiatrist. not exactly primary care. A man had had a seizure and was now awake but in denial of what had happened. no prior history of seizures. After examining the man for about 10 minutes and doing a mini mental status exam, the co-pilot suddenly is standing over me and says: “well doc, do we turn this 747 around and go back to the states or continue on to London ?” I decided it was just as far to England as it was to turn around. every hour of the flight, a flight attendant found me and asked me to check up on the gentleman. Sorta ruined my flight but then as others have said above me, who if not me to do this ?

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  52. Lisbeth Lazaron

    It does get old after awhile. Having been a small town doctor, one gets used to neighbors and acquaitances greeting you while shopping in a grocery store with a request for you to look at their rash. This could usually be redirected with humor by asking them to take off their clothes right there in the produce aisle so I could fully examine their skin. Friends would never presume to ask.

    On the other hand, I’ve been proud have the skills to be of aid when a real emergency presents. So far its been major trauma and cardiac events. Who is it who gets to do the fun stuff like delivering babies at 30,000 feet?

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  53. Jorge Ortiz

    I love medicine, it’s my profession and do not regret having made that choice for a career. But life is not just your work, there are many other things to get interested in, to enjoy and to be productive. And also to spend time with the ones you love and care. Medicine is very time consuming, and that is what would change about it, otherwise it’s a beautifull career.

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  54. Allan L. Liefer, MD

    I am a general surgeon in a rural community. My wife and I were on a cruise on Valentine’s Day. There was a page for a gynecologist or a general surgeon. I responded. A Dutch lady who spoke no English was in shock. She had been told before she left Holland that she was pregnant. She had already been given two units of blood. An anesthesiologist from Puerto Rick now practicing in the US showed up in a tuxedo. An OR nurse from Great Britian was moonlighting for a couple of weeks as a ship nurse. The ship was British as was the ship doctor. We performed an oophorectomy in International waters. She did well. International cooperation.

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  55. Ken C.

    On many occasions I have been asked or have come upon medical situations requiring immediate assistance. My latest was two weeks ago when a gentleman collapsed in the back of the airplane while returning to Los Angeles from Hawaii. I am of the belief that my medical training is not something that can be “turned off,” so when the need arises, I am there to help. That is what we do in our offices (planned) and that is what we do in the back of airplanes or anywhere else (unplanned). The work we all do is a gift for there few professions where one has the power to help a fellow man live longer, better and more fulfilled.

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  56. Juanita Landers

    Combining all thoughts:
    My closest family member to need immediate medical intervention is my husband, who had his 2nd cardiac arrest standing next to me in the kitchen, in front of the phone. Discussing details of our daughter’s wedding as I got ready to leave for work he felt dizzy, fell to the floor…
    The maddening wait for the phone to be answered at 911…the blue, awful color of death…the traffic jam not allowing the audible ambulance to arrive in less than 20 min… incredible ability to do what had to be done for 20 min with my son at my side…the fact that my son, who joined me in the life-saving event, had just had CPR in high school that week…the sensing that the efforts were becoming futile, and offering him to His Maker, with the direct order to remember the responsibility I had to raise 4 teens alone…seizure activity noted, movement, gasping…the fact that after the 2nd 360 j defib Tim screamed “Get that &^%#^&#@@!@!! thing off of my chest!!” told me that he could feel, think, respond. Sheer amazement.
    It has been 13 years. He looks better than ever! God be praised.

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  57. B.C.

    For emergencies I only step up when no one else is on scene yet. Emergency medical personnel really don’t like it when people without verifiable credentials stop by claiming to be doctors, paramedics, nurses, or whoever. Too many ‘kooks’ out there to know for sure who’s for real, so the would be Samaritans are usually sent on their way with a “thanks, we’re all set”. Most EMS providers are required by protocol to accept orders only from their own medical directors anyhow.

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  58. Wendie

    I have a large extended family and am one of three nurses in the family. The three of us are medical resourses and are often called upon to decide when a relative should be seen by a PCP or needs to go to an ED. Being acutely aware of the nursing shortage and some of the care issues involved with that shortage, we also provide for inpatient private duty nursing when needed. Our efforts are valued and appreciated and I am glad to be of this kind of service. It it why I checked that my career is a way of life.

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  59. Andy

    When driving on California’s Route 1 in heavy traffic, an oncoming car veered out of the lane. I was lucky enough to have enough shoulder to dodge him, but the van behind me was not. The resulting mayhem saw myself and a trauma surgeon (luckily two cars behind the one that got hit) handling three victims, an overturned vehicle, a depressed skull fracture, multiple other fractures, pneumothoraces, and an air lift to Stanford Hospital. But the moment for sure that gave me pause was the hysterical lady running around screaming “The car’s gonna blow up!” while we were halfway into the car trying to get the victim out. “What am I doing” went through my head until my senses returned and then I thought “too much television.”

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  60. S. G.

    I have friends who can barely leave the house without tripping over somebody who needs ACLS - at the mall, on the street, in a plane. Meanwhile, I keep waiting to hear, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Never happens to me.

    However, when strangers ask what I do, I frequently find myself lying. The last thing I want to do during a hair appointment, massage, or while traveling is to listen to, “Oh really, so you’re a DOCTOR? Well, you’ll be interested in this: my friend has this wierd pain…and my husband twisted his knee last year…and I have the worst trouble sleeping…”

    So, I guess I like the idea of being a good Samaritan when there’s a serious emergency, but not for primary care issues!

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