I’m your pediatrician. You don’t want my cell phone number

“Ok and can we get your cell phone number in case something comes up at night?” an expectant parent said to me as we finished up our prenatal visit.


We had talked about what to expect in the hospital, what the first days at home would be like, what gear to get (and what to return!), and what unknowns they were most worried about going into this new chapter.

Then they asked for unrestricted access to me…and I just said, “Nope”.

They looked just a little taken aback.  Aren’t I, as their prospective pediatrician, supposed to be doing what i can to convince them to pick me as their doctor?   The husband smirked….then realized I was serious…and shot a glance that couldn’t be interpreted any other way as a telepathic “Awkward” and said, “Oh…okay thanks”.

They thought we were through. Not just the prenatal appointment…but our potential decades-long trust-filled relationship as I helped them through sleepless nights of spit-up, fevers, kindergarten, and the teen years.

“You think you want my number….but you don’t.  You and your family will be better off without it,” I replied.

“Hmmmm….okay, I guess” the mom said as she started to stand.  “Hold on, can I explain?” I replied as they shifted in their seats.  I ran through all the reasons they actually don’t want my number:

  1. It’ just bad medicine.
    I can’t provide the same care over text that I can in a face-to-face visit.  I can’t see your child, even with pictures or video, the way I do in the office.  I can’t watch their breathing, or make them laugh, or see how they interact with my staff as they come down the hall.  I will miss something. I won’t ask the question in just the right way to get the key piece of information that proves critical.  I’ll make a decision to order a medicine or test because I’m uncomfortable with my lack of information rather than what’s truly needed.
  2. My job is to equip you with what you need to know.
    You shouldn’t need a direct line to me if I’m doing my job.  If your child comes in sick, I’m going to make sure you’re confident and know what to do if something doesn’t go as we expected.  At every visit I tell the parent, “my anticipation is _______”….”My anticipation is that he’ll feel the same or a little better tomorrow and a lot better in 2-3 days” or “My anticipation is that she will keep down fluids after we give her this medicine”.  The next line is, “But if it doesn’t go that way, you need to ____________”.  You’re set.  You’ll know what to do.  Often, that is to call my office and we’ll figure it out together.
  3. Butt dials
    What could be more embarassing than butt dialing your pediatrician? Probably a lot of things …but still!
  4. Better safety net in place
    At our office, you can speak to a nurse 24/7/365.  They can connect you to your doctor or the one on call 24/7/365.  They can make an appointment for the morning even if you call at two in the morning.  We have a safety net in place to keep our patients healthy, safe and connected to us.   We pay our nurses to make sure that our parents have all the resources they need WHEN they need them.  We literally (and happily I might add!) pay to get good rest so we are ready to see your family the next.
  5. I practice what I preach about modeling screen behavior.
    I wrote recently about modeling appropriate screen time as a parent.   I try to practice what I preach.   I don’t carry my phone all evening.  I don’t get notifications past a certain time so I can connect with my wife, relax, and go to sleep without worry.  I don’t get email notifications at all.  I’ll miss your calls and texts.  You’ll be waiting for me to respond instead of using the resources I’ve already put in place to make sure your child is safe and well.  It will delay care with you waiting on me.  You’ll think I don’t care.  I’ll wake up in the morning to see you in a moment of need and then I’ll worry something has happened and you’ve felt abandoned.
  6. It makes me a better pediatrician for your child and a better husband & father for my family.
    I have a fantastic job.  I’ve never yet dreaded going to work, not a single day.   Despite that, I need breaks.  My family needs me and I need them.   If I am constantly hearing text dings I will be a distracted husband, father, and friend.   I won’t be recharged and ready to see you as I should in the office.  I’ll worry that I made the wrong decision over text.  It will erode my personal time with my wife and family.  I’ll be resentful of stolen time, get burnt out, and retire early.  You don’t want a burnout, resentful curmudgeon and I don’t want to be that!


Our prenatal visit ended.  They walked out….and I saw them a month later when their new baby arrived.  It was vindicating for me that they asked for my number, I said, “Nope”, and we moved on.  They still trusted me with their most precious gift.



I’d like to hear from you….what do you need to take the best care of your child?
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