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May 1989

Telephone Etiquette: The Telephone, One of the Physician's Most Necessary and, at Times, Most Hated Devices

Author Affiliations

Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation Rochester, MN 55905

Am J Dis Child. 1989;143(5):520. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1989.02150170014005

Sir.—My teacher, friend, and most respected colleague, the late Lloyd E. Harris, MD, a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, tried to teach me, among many other things, the first lesson about telephone etiquette for physicians, which is: "Do not call your colleagues unless there is an emergency or you need information right this minute."

Dr Harris found interruptions by telephone calls almost rude. His main reason for advising against the liberal use of the telephone was obvious: In our daily practice, every telephone call reaching us through our modern paging devices without delay is always an unscheduled interruption. When we are seeing patients we might be stopped at a crucial moment of history taking, in the process of taking a blood pressure, or, worse yet, when giving some bad news. Furthermore, the patient in the room becomes witness to information that might be confidential or to one side of a conversation

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