"Oh Dr. Shyder! I am so happy you called me back! I had no idea how to get in touch with you. I will need to get a faxed permission slip from the patient before I can fax you that information, and we have been trying to get in touch with him all day."
I was confused. I have been calling clinics - heme/onc, ENT, GI, you name it, sometimes three or four cases a day, and getting patient information faxed without a permission slip for two years This was the first time I had heard it mentioned. When a patient is in house, it is easy to look up labs and doctor notes on the computer chart, but outpatient cases occasionally require a little extra effort, if necessary. This particular case had an entirely different pre- and post-op diagnosis listed on the requisition slip that came with it, two diagnoses that had nothing in common with each other, and the image on the slide didn't really fit. So I needed some more information. I explained my confusion to the nurse, and she said, "You're who? You mean we sent a specimen to you? Hold on, let me get the doctor."
I spoke with the doctor and it quickly became apparent that he was mistaking me for a family doctor in town, one with a similar last name. His first name is Steve. I introduced myself as one of the members of the pathology group he hired recently, and he gave me the information I needed over the phone. He apologized for the delay.
"That's all right, I often get mistaken for Steve. I guess it's my low voice." I hadn't been aware that other clinicians require a faxed patient permission slip to get patient records, and suddenly felt heady with the power of being able to request confidential information and have it faxed directly to me, whenever I wanted it. Just by dropping MY name. Abracadabra. Not that I would abuse it, but man. The power.
When I first started working in private practice, this happened often. I would get shuffled from secretary to nurse, finally landing in the doctor's hand as he picked up the phone and said, "Hey man, what's up? What's going on?," obviously mistaking me for this Steve doctor, who I have never met. I would have to awkwardly explain that I was Gizabeth, not Steve, one of the new pathologists, and whatever doctor I was talking to would re-adjust his familiarity to detached professionalism so I could continue with my questions. Now, the savvier offices ask for my first name before passing me on to the doctor.
Once I was in the doctor's lounge getting coffee. One of the heme/onc doctors walked over and said, "Guess what? You aren't going to believe this. Do you remember when you called me the other day? To talk about that patient? I thought you were this other clinician, Steve, for the first three minutes on the phone. Three whole minutes!" I smiled and nodded incredulously, covering up the fact that I really wasn't surprised, by now, at all. This was old hat. My 11th personality. Didn't Sybil get to change genders a few times? It's only fair that I get to try it out.
This phone talk reminds me of one time in college when I was the etiology of a big relationship fight. I was calling my friend Merry on the phone, and her boyfriend Stash answered. He said she was busy, but would be there in a minute, and I was a little frustrated that he stayed on the phone to chit chat so I couldn't just wait in peace. I don't really remember what we talked about - college blather probably -- did you go to that party last weekend, are you going to go to this party this weekend, or something like that. All of a sudden I heard Merry screaming at Stash and he quickly hung up the phone. I didn't have long to wonder in alarm what had happened, because Stash called me back within five minutes, beseeching me to help him crawl out of the doghouse. While I was on the phone with Stash, Merry had picked up the phone, listened for a second, and jumped to conclusions.
"Can you please tell Merry I was talking to you? Not some phone sex girl? She thinks you were a phone sex girl."
I straightened out that fight, but I recently became friends with her on Facebook, and was not surprised that her married name was not his. I wondered, at the time, what sort of previous incident had caused her to jump so quickly to me as phone sex girl. I wasn't certain whether to be flattered or not. And I guess there really isn't much difference between the low, breathy voice of a guy and a phone sex girl.
I am really not sure what the picture of me and John on the horse has to do with this blog, other than I really liked riding on horseback with John last weekend, even though I had to mask abject fear for the first ten minutes, left over from an early childhood incident at my aunt's stable outside Chicago. I thought maybe Steve should be riding a horse. It would fit him - this guy that inspires such easy male camaraderie. Yup. Getting on a horse is right up Steve's alley, I think. I could be him.
I am going to get back to the third of six birthday gift books I have been reading - this one is by far the best. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (thanks Annie!). His writing is knocking my socks off. Not that the others were too shabby - Amy and Isabelle cemented my adoration of Elizabeth Strout, and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers fueled my anger at politicians and the military. Looking forward to a long, lazy overcast weekend with few plans.