Pediatricians' Evening/Weekend Advice Service

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Does your pediatrician use a scripted service?

March 2005

Saturday night I had an occasion to call the night/evening advice line provided by my pediatrician's office (sick child). Frankly I was unimpressed-it seemed to me that the RN on the line was going through a long list of questions, then eventually got to ''If I (mom) had to guess, what did I think it was?'', to which I responded ''Maybe an ear infection?''. This was followed by no advice/information about ear infections or anything else, just advice to take her to an emergency room. Maybe what really put me off was that the call started with ''your call is being recorded'' and ended with ''do you understand this advice and are you comfortable with it?'', all of which left me feeling that the whole thing was nothing but a legal hoop to jump. I know the practice of farming out night/weekend advice lines is common (my previous pediatrician in SF had a similar thing going) but I''m wondering what other people's experiences are-has anyone gotten good advice from these things? Are there pediatricians around that actually answer their own calls on weekends/evenings? Unhappy Mom

I too would be very frustrated by what you described. When my son is sick and I don't know what to do I need someone that can ask the right questions and give me some answers. When I looked for a pediatrician I made sure I would have after hour support.

I picked East Bay Pediatrics. After hours you page the actual doctor who is on call. I have used them on a number of occasions and have nothing but praise for each of the doctors that I've talked to. They respond quickly (unless they are attending an emergency) and will ask specific questions based on your description. If it is something that can be diagnosed over the phone they will even call in a prescription to a 24 hour pharmacy. They have an informative web site at Good luck

I have called the advice line three times in the last year and yes--they are mostly useless. The first time, my daughter was only a few weeks old and had been crying for three hours. We were uncertain if it was colic or if she was ill. So the nurse asked, ''Is she sick?'' That was not helpful--i was a first time mom and wanted help looking for signs of illness. She finally suggested we take her temperature and give her sugar water, at which point I promptly hung up. One nurse was helpful with strategies for a vomiting infant, but that was one call out of three. It's no longer my first line of information--I can go to the internet in the middle of the night and get more insights. I wish it was more helpful to all of us. anon
What you have described sounds like the service our pediatrician's office used many years ago--sometimes the advice is pretty good and other times it is just as you described, although the disclaimers that you describe are disturbing, for sure. Our pediatrician's office--East Bay Pediatrics--has 10 or so physicians and when their office is closed (evenings and weekends) one physician is on call for each day, so that when you call the office number, you can tell them your problem into a voice-activated messager, and the on-call physician will call you back to give advice, usually within 5 or 10 minutes. It's a much better method than the nurse-run advice line you describe, because when we call, many of the on-call physicians have seen our kids and are familiar with their problems and can even access their files, if need be, for more thorough advice. I recommend them highly, and know they are still taking new patients. Our pediatrician is Wm. Rhea, but all of the doctors in that office are truly excellent. They are in Berkeley and take most forms of insurance. Karen
I,too, had some frustrating experiences with the CHO after hours pediatric advice line (I'm assuming that this is what your pediatrician uses because I think that most around here do) but I recently figured out a trick that may work for you. We were at the ER late at night and had to make some decisions about a procedure that they wanted to do, and I really wanted to talk to our pediatrician for advice. I called the after hours # (which, with Bayside Pediatrics, is an answering service that connects you to the advice line) and I said that I didn't want the advice line, but was there any way to talk to our dr. They wouldn't give me her #, but did have the dr on call for the group call me back. He was very helpful to speak to, and he even agreed to try to get ahold of my dr. and have her call me (even though she wasn't on call) which she did! He called me within minutes of when I called, and when I had called the advice line earlier that night before going to the ER, they said that there was an average of 1 hour waiting time for a call back which was unacceptable to me especially for a potential emergency. I didn't wait for the call back, just took him to the ER. From now on, I will always ask to speak to the dr. on call rather than the advice line. I hope that works for you too! milli
I feel for you and your less than satisfying after-hours Peds call. I wanted to write to let you know that there ARE pediatricians out there that answer their own evening and weekend call lines. I don't know where you live but we go to Lamorinda Pediatrics in Lafayette. It is a short 15 - 20 min. drive from Oakland and we get great care from them. I even called once on a Sunday about possible wheezing in my daughter and the on call doc told us to come in to the office even though they are not officially open on Sundays. Saved us an emergency room visit and a whole lot of anxiety. I would encourage you to consider a new peds practice if this issue bugs you enough. Jennifer