DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a surgeon, and part of my job is to consult on patients of other doctors at the hospital. Another physician will phone me and ask me to see the patient, then give them my opinion on the most appropriate treatment.
I generally visit these patients either between surgeries during the day, or in the evening, after I am done with my clinic or operations. On a couple of occasions, the patient has answered their cellphone while I am talking to them. They will say "hold on a minute," or simply hold up a finger, while they embark on a personal conversation.
The last time this happened, I stood there for several minutes while the patient asked the caller "what he was up to" and discussed their recent social activities. In that situation, I interrupted, saying, "If you need to take this call, I can come back later." But I'm not sure that this was the most appropriate way to handle it.
I am not able to come back whenever is convenient for them, as most of my day is filled with my own clinic and operating room. Further, inpatient consults are supposed to be for urgent problems, so I do want to see them in a timely manner.
What should I do? Is there a polite way for me to ask them to defer a non-urgent call so that I can complete my assessment?
GENTLE READER: Not having, herself, a shred of medical training, you will, politely, correct Miss Manners if she is mistaken in her understanding that, after completing the difficult bits in an operation, surgeons are allowed to leave "closing up" to assistants.
She mentions this because it reveals the problem in your recent response. Interrupting the call your patient so rudely took was the hard part, but the job was not complete at that point. And since the patient cannot finish this job, you will have to do it: Excuse yourself, and leave to attend your other patients.
The referring physician can then explain to the patient how that behavior interfered with the hospital's care.