Tips for using a pager

Monday night was very surreal.

I got a call from the nursing supervisor, asking me to call a doctor who was with a patient in the ICU that needed surgery.

And they tried the pager but could not get through.

It was on my bedside table, right next to me, but sure.

Okay, weird flex, but sure.

I called the number she gave me.

It was a PA, waiting for the surgeon, wanting to get the OR ready for an emergent case.

Before the surgeon had even been to evaluate the patient.

I assured him that the OR team would prep the room, but hold off opening until they called me back.

I alerted the call tech, got dressed and headed in.

I scheduled the case, picked the case, and started reading up on the patient, labs, doctor’s notes, nurses’ notes. And the PA called me back as the scrub tech entered the core. They told me that the surgeon decided to transfer the patient to a higher level of care instead.

After reading what I had, I agreed. I didn’t tell them that but the patient would get more comprehensive care at the main hospital downtown. Our OR could’ve handled the surgery, no question about it, but the aftercare would be key. After hanging up with them, I told the scrub tech that the case was canceled. I said that I was sorry she’d driven in and to be safe driving home.

And then I reversed what I had done. I took the booking sheet, and wrote CX, PT TX to MH. This means that the case was canceled, and the patient transferred to the bigger hospital. (You know, I got reports that day shift still bitched that we left the case supplies on a table with the note. You can’t please some people.)

I called the anesthesia team and told them the patient was being transferred. And then I called the nursing supervisor back to tell her to anticipate transferring this patient. And then I asked what they had done when the pager “failed” on them. I quote the word fail because I don’t think they paged correctly. She said it had just beeped.

And it all became clear.

This is probably a generational gap thing.

Surgeons, people who grew up in the 80s and 90s and even the early aughts know how to work a pager. There are no prompts, there used to be, it depends on the service provider.

I would surmise that the PA called the pager number, got beeped at, and hung up, thinking it had malfunctioned.

Tips for using a pager- dial the pager number, wait for the beeps, put in a call back number, hit pound to send the page. Hang up. Wait for call back.

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