Emergency Call

I shouldn’t have gone over the nurses’ heads and called the doctor. But why did everyone make a big deal about using the bedside phone?

By Karen Cattron, Orange, California

As appeared in

My mom, nearly 80 years old, fell and suffered an injury. After several days in the hospital, she moved to a rehab center to begin a long recovery. As a registered nurse, I couldn’t help myself from closely observing everything the nurses did. Questioning them on every little detail. I didn’t want to get in their way, but who could look out for her better than I could?

The day after Mom moved into the center, I came to check on her. Her eyes were closed, her breathing shallow. Good, she’s sleeping, I thought. Mom had been in so much pain that she had trouble getting any rest.

Then I looked at the monitor. Her respiratory rate: a steady 12. Safe… for normal people. But Mom had a chronic lung disease. That breathing is too slow, I thought. Too slow to be combined with the sedative drip Mom was receiving.

The resident nurse dismissed my concerns. If she knew my mom’s history…I had to get in touch with Mom’s lung doctor. I picked up the bedside phone and dialed.

“You’re calling from the bedside phone?” the receptionist said, sounding surprised. Yes, I know, I should have gone through the proper channels…She summoned the doctor.

“The bedside phone?” he questioned me. “In your mom’s room?”

Ok, I get the point. I should have had the nursing staff call him. I apologized and explained the situation. He agreed that Mom shouldn’t have received the sedative. “Call the RN to the phone,” he said. “Don’t hang up. Get the nurse.”

Sheepishly, I told the nurse I was on the bedside phone with the doctor. “The bedside phone?” she said, in disbelief. “Really?”

After speaking to the doctor, she made the proper adjustments to Mom’s sedation.

Arriving home, I vented to Dad. “They kept making a big deal about me being on the bedside phone,” I said.

“The bedside phone? Not your cell phone?” he said.

“Why should that matter?” I asked.

“You didn’t hear? A contractor severed the main telephone line in town. Land lines haven’t worked all day.”

I guess someone could look after Mom better than me after all.

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