Help! Everyone’s trying to talk to me

Don’t let distractions get in the way of patient care

Paula S. Katz | October 10, 2015

Q: I’m overwhelmed by communication. The phone is always ringing, and everyone is always interrupting me. It’s stressful! How can I handle this better?

A: What you’re describing is the struggle of constant availability. I got rid of my pager and my iPhone is generally on do not disturb. People can still send me text messages and leave voicemails, but I attend to them on my own time.

When I’m with a patient, I want to be fully present. It’s so disrespectful to hold up a hand and say, “I have to take this.” That behavior can also be dangerous. Distracted physicians—much like distracted drivers—make mistakes.

It’s the same thing with meetings: If you’ve thoughtfully decided to attend a meeting, then be fully present. It’s a matter of basic respect.

I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts to declutter my life. But it’s hard to completely avoid all of the people who are looking for you. I was at my kitchen table this morning responding to various communications in the hospital’s EHR.

Response from David Frenz, MD, medical director for mental health and addiction care at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.


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