Posted by: Kate | July 22, 2008

No Bars in More Places

I’m not a great telephone conversationalist.  Being hard-of-hearing cuts back on that, as does the fact that my living room offers reception comparable to the inside of a refrigerator.  Plus I am just not often in the mood to chat on the phone; face-to-face, I’m good, and I’m usually fairly responsive to emails, but something about the phone is just off-putting to me.  Which is good, because it’s rare that anyone calls me, so when they do it’s an unusual and exciting event. 

My logic may be twisted, but it’s mine, all mine.

I have a second phone, because I need something that I can still use after I have shut off my work phone and hidden it away.  The new receptionists, who have had their jobs for almost a year now, still find it unreasonably bothersome to read the calendar before trying to call a clinician, and I find it easier to not answer the phone if I’m not on-call.  Having to explain the concept of the days of the week to an adult woman is just a little embarrassing to me, somehow.

My work phone gets a lot of use during the week.  But not when I’m in with a client.  I have deeply offended coworkers as well as irritating the answering service, because I refuse to carry a phone when I’m with someone in the emergency room.  I feel a need to prioritize this person in front of me in the moment, not to be interrupted by other calls.  When I was being trained for the job, I watched one of my coworkers get called away from an assessment four times within the space of a half hour.  I was somewhere between disgusted and appalled, and I promised myself I would leave the phone in my purse, in my office, every time.

It means that sometimes people have to wait 20 minutes or more before I can return their call, and I know they don’t like that.  “You’re a suicide hotline, how can you make someone wait?”  Well, um… watch. 

Hang on.



This waiting?  That’s how.  I don’t actually, physically save lives; if someone needs 911, they can call 911.  And if they’re already at the hospital and need to be seen, then they are surrounded by medical professionals and security guards.  But this one person, in my presence, right now, needs to know that all of my attention is focused here, and unless someone knocks on the door, we won’t be interrupted.

It’s just a little thing, more a communication with myself than with the patient. 

And I have no idea why it’s worth a blog post, but there you have it.



  1. As someone who’s been on the receiving end of mental health crisis care–I say thank you! You’re absolutely doing the right thing!!!

  2. i think it’s better that you dont answer your phone with a patient for sure!

  3. Kate, why couldn’t you have been one of my examiners a couple of weekends ago? Seriously though, I’m the same way. I don’t do crisis work, just assessment. Even though I use the timer/stopwatch function in my phone, I turn it to airplane mode so that no calls, text messages or emails come through and disrupt the testing process. I get downright pissed off if someone knocks on the door (never in front of the patient, though – only quietly and in private with the offender). Life is hard enough on our patients without them worrying about whether we’re paying enough attention to our jobs to be able to effectively help them with their problems. /soapbox

  4. Hm. It irritates me when a checkout clerk answers the phone when I am in front of them with my piddly little material needs. Were I in emotional need so great as to be in your care? Gee, let me think on how I’d feel if you took a call instead of being focused on me. Okay, I’m done thinking about it. Kudos to you for understanding priorities in a world that is overwhelmingly distracted from them.

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