Nursing Talk
Dear Cassandra,

Several times a week I call the office, or I receive a call from the office. Sometimes the scheduler is offering a case to me or confirming or canceling a shift. Sometimes I need to speak with the supervisor about a clinical issue. Sometimes I have an HR or payroll question. What can I do to make these calls more efficient?

Needs to Talk in Pingree Grove

Dear Needs to Talk,

If you watched Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In on NBC during the 1970’s, you will remember Lily Thomlin’s sketch of Ernestine, the switchboard operator. Ernestine was a nosy, condescending telephone operator who generally treated customers with little sympathy. She wore her hair in a 1940’s hairstyle with a hair net, and she often had on a white blouse. Her most memorable words were “1 Ringy Dingy, 2 Ringy Dingy. Is this the party to whom I am speaking?” (duh)

At American Home Health, those who answer the phones try to provide good customer service. Sometimes this is difficult. Our toll free number, which is (800) 872- 4427, is just one digit different from the phone number of J.R. Cigars in Burlington, North Carolina. We receive many calls from customers wanting to order cigars. Most people apologize when they realize they have dialed the wrong number. Some do not. Recently a woman with a smoker’s voice called. When the staff member answered the phone in the usual way, the woman paused. Then she said, “What the hell!” A few seconds later she called again. Once again she paused. Once again she said, “What the hell!”

What can you do to make your calls more efficient? First, always listen to the message on your answering machine before calling the office. Don’t call and say, “Someone tried to call me.” There are almost twenty people in the main office. Was it a scheduler, a supervisor, payroll, HR? What was the person’s name? What message did the caller leave for you?

Second, identify yourself by your full name when you call the office. Don’t say, “This is Mary.” Mary who? American Home Health has two hundred and thirty employees. Sometimes we don’t recognize your voice. Sometimes the caller ID simply says, “Wireless Call.” Sometimes the connection is bad, and we cannot hear the caller clearly.

Third, don’t wait until the end of the day to call the office. The office is open from 8:00 A.M. until 4:30 P.M. Monday through Friday. The phones get especially busy in late afternoon. If you need to rearrange your schedule or cancel your shift, call early in the day. Give the schedulers time to make adjustments or find a substitute.

Fourth, leave a message if the person you are calling is not available. Sometimes the calls get backed up, or the staff member has stepped away from his desk. Sometimes the person is in a meeting or is out of the office. If you leave a message, we will be sure that the individual gets your message.

Fifth, be sure that you return your monthly availability form by mail each month by the deadline. Do not expect the scheduler to take your availability over the phone.

Above all, be courteous and professional. Do not swear at the schedulers or tell them that you hate them. Remember that their job is to offer cases to you to provide coverage for the clients. They are trying to match nurses to cases within twenty miles from the nurse’s home. They must also consider the shift you want to work, what days you want to work, how much you want to work, and your skills with g-tube, trach, and vent.

Finally, upgrade your skills. The State of Illinois Department of Specialized Care for Children has fewer dollars available. That means the State will approve fewer hours of care and focus on the care for trach and vent dependent children. If you are not vent proficient, get trained. The schedulers will then be able to offer more cases to you.


Note: First published on American Home Health's news, December 2011.

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