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Everyone lauds the invention of the mobile phone and consequently of Whatsapp, which has pretty much revolutionised the calling system in the healthcare industry. Senior doctors reminisce about the good-ole' days when pagers would beep, and one would scurry off to find the nearest telephone. Modern technology has brought instant connectivity and instant information dissemination - even to multiple parties at once.

Although glaringly obvious, the trend of "phone-rage" has been shoved under the carpet for the longest time possible.

You might ask, “What exactly is ‘phone-rage’?” From street polls conducted on the very grounds of SGH, "phone-rage" appears to especially afflict junior and mid-tier doctors. Stuck between their managing bosses' expectations and increased responsibility, recipients of frequent phone calls from their superiors are subject to the high probability of unleashing their angst/pent up frustration at the unsuspecting caller on the other end of the line.

The probability (and intensity) of phone-rage increases exponentially during non-office hours, while on calls, and especially during off days when one is not physically in the hospital. Post-phone-rage interviews of the perpetrator often reveals a certain degree of guilt and remorse once the acute precipitating phone call has ended, with the perpetrator wishing that he or she was more tolerant.

So, if the culprit is usually remorseful, then 若知今日, 何比当初 - or why did he explode if he was going to regret it?

This writer postulates a few reasons for this phenomenon:

1) Timing of phone call. There really isn't a good timing for a phone call, is there? The culprit is usually in the midst of doing something when the phone rings. By Murphy's law, the phone will ring when you're either A) doing CPR and resuscitating a code blue B) speaking to a difficult family or C) doing some-other-procedure-that-takes-a--lot-of-time-such-as-inserting-an-IV-plug-on-a-renal-patient. And hence, phone-rage occurs. Me thinks that you would be less likely to get "phone-raged" if you called while the doctor is having lunch, or sitting in front of the computer typing a discharge summary.

2) Content of phone call. Nothing annoys the recipient more than a half-baked story about the patient that you wish to ask about. Point: know your patient, and know your question (if in doubt, call a friend). Coming in a close second in this category, is probably a call on questions related to your instructions that have already been written down in the case sheet, but was not read or followed upon.

3) Faceless void. It’s no secret that people react differently to a foreign number VS a familiar name that pops up when the phone rings. Perhaps video-calling or face-time is the way to go in the future. Trust me; it is a lot more difficult to yell at someone when you're seeing him face-to-face.


*Oops! Sorry for that interruption. Had to pick up a phone call on a Sunday afternoon from the hospital. Note to self: breathe in, breathe out.. breathe in, breathe out..*

Ok, coming back to the main post. Some techniques to avoid being a perpetrator of phone rage:

1) Who's that? You don't really know who's on the other end of the telephone. It may actually be your BOSS calling from a landline. Totally not cool to explode at your boss. Ever.

2) The party on the phone is innocent. Really, no kidding, he is innocent. Usually they are not too sure if you're on leave or post-call or not working the weekend. A simple explanation that you're not around today would send both parties off on a happier and courteous note that even Singa the courtesy lion would be proud of.

3) Take a holiday. Stat. Beach villa. Mmmmmm. 'nuff said.

Ok, I'm off to book my vacation. Now.