Nuts & Bolts of Calling a Doctor’s Office

This subject seems to come up a lot, so I thought I would do a Tutorial on how to get in touch with a person and not a machine when you’re calling a doctor’s office.

My first and probably most important piece of information is:



I cannot stress this enough. Even if you have to wait on hold for awhile. I tend to call about 9:45am. By then the logjam has passed and the way is pretty clear.

Calling in the morning gives the doctor the entire day to get your chart, prescribe meds or answer your questions. Lunch time is the usual time they read your message, so if you call in the afternoon, unless you are in the ER, you will be waiting until the next day for an answer.


If you are really in a crisis (psych, serious fever or infection), I would call back right after lunch. Be your nicest self! NO yelling about “Why hasn’t she called me back yet?!?” crap. Just kindly say, “I need help. I am so ill. Can I come in tomorrow morning? Or might I talk to the nurse or doctor this afternoon?”

“I need help” is a wonderful way of garnering sympathy for your situation.


A Practice with a Receptionist

If your doctor is in a practice with a receptionist, it’s easier to get a hold of the doc you’re needing because someone should always be available during the 9-5 workday.

You often will be triaged by a nurse before getting a message to the doctor. Still, the earlier you call, the earlier your voice will be heard.

Most offices close for lunch… either between 12pm and 1pm or between 1pm and 2pm. Calling then, you will get a machine. Leaving a message on a machine is like talking into an abyss. Call back when lunch is over.


Calling Mental Health Professionals

Therapists especially are meticulous with the timing of their appointments. They are 50 minutes long, beginning at the top of the hour, ending at 50 minutes after. I have great luck calling in that 10 minute window between clients. Some will listen to messages and call back during that time, but many pick up the phone, too.


Know what you are going to say. They have moments to figure out what you need before the next appointment starts. Write it down if you need to before you call. Be ready!

Psychiatrists’ schedules are a bit more wonky, so leaving a message might be necessary. Just as if you were talking to a person, have what you want to say ready. The more info you can leave in the shortest amount of time… being concise… helps everyone get their needs met.

Playing Dumb

When I really need to get through to someone (and you pick your battles here), I feign accidentally hitting the button that says “If you are a care provider and need to speak to someone now, press 1.” Use that sparingly, especially in the same practice. Really, judicious use, please.


Bypassing Automated  Menus

If you’ve read this far, I get to teach you a trick I learned from another operator. Not specifically for doctor’s offices, but really helpful for banks, phone companies, cable companies, DMVs… any of the bazillion places that have phone trees you seem to be forever lost in.


Press 0 (zero) fast, over and over and over again. PressPressPressPressPress a dozen or more times. 8 out of 10 times, this gets me to a person.


Patient Portals

If you doctors’ office has a Patient Portal, sign up for it asap!

In the portal, you can email your provider, ask for refills, make appointments without calling and see your chart and most lab results.

Patient Portals are the best.


If I didn’t answer something, ask me about it!

Blindsided: The Fat-Shaming Doc Visit


Written 10/12/16 about 10/10/16 Gastro-Intestinal (GI) doctor visit.


So, while I have been fat my whole life and have had my share of medical fat-shaming from fat-hating doctors, it has been a very long time since that’s happened… whether from their shifts in attitude via Continuing Education about inclusivity  (or at least learning to keep their mouths closed about their attitudes)  or because I learned to open my mouth to shut it down.

Unknown date of un-remembered hospitalization. PICC Line insertion successful.

The GI Doc

I had signed AMA out of the hospital 12 hours earlier when the doctor, small, a person of color (no clue the origin, but shouldn’t matter),very pretty walked into the Exam Room.

“Oh, my! You look awful,” she said. I’d seen her 3 times before, but I am memorable by what I wear (tie-dye) and being bald. And I am very, very nice to care providers.

“You look like you haven’t slept in weeks!”

“Uhhh, I am at the tail end of a 2-3 month Manic Episode, so no, not sleeping much.”

She went over the paperwork, labs & prescriptions from the night before. She looked at me pretty harshly and said, “You really need to be in the hospital. You are extremely dehydrated.”

I told her no one said anything like that the night before, but I would probably still not have stayed.

She said, “Stubborn.”



The reasons she said I am dehydrated:

  • chronic diarrhea despite 20 Immodiums and 3 Pancreatic Enzymes a day
  • vomiting a couple of times a day
  • taking Lasix to pee! (because of the ankle swelling from the Risperdal)

I would have never recognized the signs of dehydration because they were in the labs! I guess the NP the night before didn’t think I was that dehydrated because she never even said the word to me. My pee is crystal clear; strange. She said that was why my HR was 124 upon discharge. I am sure I shrugged.


She said I needed to get the ER prescriptions filled (the Cipro and Bentyl) and she added Prilosec, Lomotil and Zofran.


This is what my New-Taking-Now meds look like (as they lay against my ballot which went in the mail yesterday!).

“Good-Luck with That.”

“You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected.”

Okay, true. Emergency surgeries on fat people have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

But there was more to her sentence above.

She ran two of them together, “You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected… but I am sure you won’t find a doctor to touch you because of your size.”

blinking as I watched the contempt drip from her lips

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think you will find a doctor in our area to do the surgery because of (again with the disdain) – the risks.”

I told her I knew that Bariatric Surgeons (who do Weight Loss Surgeries) are ALL GI Docs and I would find one to take my gallbladder out.

“Good luck with that.”

She gave me my paperwork, prescriptions and her bulldozer-sized hatred of fat people… and walked out.

I sat there and cried.


raw Raw RAW

I am strong. Most of the time.

Right now in this (decreasingly) manic place, I feel flayed, nerves on the outer surface of my body. No ability to control what or who hits them. I merely react to the sensations.

This one was an animal claw dragging down my chest… slipping in and gashing my heart as it went by.

I had not felt such shame in eons. And I see doctors all the time! I mean, really, probably not for at least a decade have I been medically fat-shamed. (Many medical & personal fat-shaming experiences to come in future posts.) I felt hideous in those moments after she smashed shit down my throat, squishing it with her heel as she left the room.


I stumbled out of the building, crying still, and drove home.

I began to find my Power, many minutes too late and useless at that point, but I thought, “For fuck’s sake, I cannot possibly be the fattest person on the face of the earth who needs abdominal surgery.”

And then I got mad, but it was a gradual dilution of the mad into the shame where, for a time, if they were able to be separated, you could see they were half and half. Now, 2 days later, I am more mad, but in retelling it to my Insurance’s Case Manager, I cried from shame so hard she kept having to say, “Breathe. Breathe.”

I have been given 3 Bariatric doctors’ names… one in Orlando, one in Tampa and one in Miami. I told my Case Manager I would go anywhere in Florida to get it done. Even if I had to go to Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. I called the doc here in Orlando, explained the situation to the Office Manager and she said she would talk to him and get back to me tomorrow. I told her I knew it was not his usual surgery, that I had had Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) in 2001, but was fat again and needed help, please.

We’ll see what happens.

I will find a doctor to help me.