Simple Beeping Pagers Tell Patients a Doctor’s Distraction Is Work-Related

(p. A10) Pagers, those pre-cellphone, one-way devices that alert the carrier that someone is trying to reach them, can seem like something out of a time capsule.

. . .

There are people who just refuse to let their pagers go, including some doctors and bird watchers. They say pagers allow them to separate parts of their life in a way phones don’t, and that the lower-tech one-way communication of a pager is less distracting than looking at a phone full of alerts and apps.

. . .

Another advantage of the pager? It’s easy for staff to throw one in frustration instead of turning on each other, according to Dr. Colm McCarthy, an orthopedic surgeon in Fall River, Mass.

Tired during a busy on-call night once, he chucked his pager in a closet where it broke.

He gave up his pager when he got his current job, and transitioned over to the apps on his phone. Now, though, when he gets a message on his phone, it’s awkward to answer it, he says. If he’s looking at the phone, he worries patients might wonder what he’s paying attention to while with a pager, it’s obvious it’s work.

He has multiple apps on his phone. Last year, his hospital adopted the fourth app that connects him to patients. When a patient wants to reach him, he gets a message with a phone number. He then has to call that number to get a message with the patient’s phone number.

The mute function on the apps is easily overridden by alerts, so to separate work from home life, he keeps his phone on silent altogether, he says. He often misses messages from family and friends because of that.

For the full story, see:

Ariana Perez-Castells. “What the Beep? Die-Hards Refuse to Let Go of Their Pagers.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, May 20, 2023): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 19, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

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