When Breaking The Rules Is The Right Choice

The call never should have been made.

It broke every proscribed rule.

After all, I was not on call. Thanks to the wonders of computer technology, it was very clear that I was being covered by my colleague. And yet, despite this, it came.

“Dr. Fisher, I’m so sorry for calling you at home, but I received a call from Ms. X, the wife of your patient Mr. Y. who said she really needed to speak to you about her husband… she seemed quite concerned and insisted I call you…. I told her I’d see if I could reach you at home… I’m so sorry, but it sounded urgent… I have her number, could I connect you?”

“That would be great, thank you…”

I wish I got the name of the operator that evening. I have no idea what intuition, what verbal cue she received that prompted her to break all the rules. She was, after all, just a hospital operator who should have followed the playbook but decided to take a huge personal risk to rely on her judgment instead. There was no playbook, no algorithm involved – in fact, it was just the opposite.

But one thing’s for certain: this operator should to know that the patient, his family, and I will be forever grateful.

Thank you.