I came home last Friday afternoon and my son who was happily waiting for my arrival asked me to shoot some hoops with him in our driveway basketball court. Even though I was tired and I was still on call, I obliged. That’s when I dropped my pager.
Yes, I still carry a pager or also known as a beeper. A system prescribed and hospital provided pager. Really? Really.
In this day and age of mobile phones and smart phones, it is hard to believe that I still lug this dinosaur-like device on my hip. Why is this antiquated technology of almost half a century ago still exist and still being used?
Even though pagers are out of vogue in many professions, they are still being used especially in medical field. There are several reasons why a pager is still being used. First, in emergencies, an emergency signal or message can be sent to several pager units to respond to the call, like EMT, hospital code team and trauma team.
Secondly, inside buildings that are steel reinforced, or in part of the hospital like in radiology department, wherein the walls are lead insulated, as well as in basements, the cell phone receptions may be spotty. But pagers still works in these locations, making them indispensable.
Thirdly, there may be hospital equipments, especially in the ICU, that cell phones signals can interfere and disrupt. This is the reason why many hospitals do not allow visitors to use their cell phone inside the ICU, similar to why the airplane cabin crew orders passengers to shut off their cell phones during flight. But pagers are perfectly OK. Though I must admit, nowadays the restriction of using cell phones in the ICU is getting lax, especially when the doctors themselves (including me) use their mobile phones there.
Another advantage of pagers is if it goes off, you can read the message and have the option to answer it right away if it is really urgent, or you can delay answering it if it can wait, and continue whatever task you are engaged in. So it does not disrupt your workflow all the time.
But for me, the best thing about beepers is that you can turn it off when you’re not working or not on call. It is harder to turn off the cell phone as it may not just for business but also for personal use. Plus if you are a doctor, you don’t want to give your cell phone number to your patients, right? That will be like tying a rock in your neck and jumping in a river.
Back to my dropped pager. After it accidentally fell, it broke into several pieces. Did I say accidentally?
Since it was the weekend I have no way of replacing it right away. And since I was on call, I must have a working pager. So I tried to put back the pieces of my beeper together with duct tape! I tell you, duct tape can fix anything – fractured eyeglasses, broken toys, leaking pipes, loose gadgets, gossiping lips…..gossiping lips?
I was really surprised that after I taped my broken pager together that it still worked. It was actually working! Maybe in the back of my mind, I was hoping that my pager will stay broken, so I can be free from being on call. Wishful thinking.
It was a busy weekend and my duct-taped pager went off a hundred times or more. The calls kept on coming. My pager kept on beeping. I was really tempted to drop my beeper to the ground, this time more forcefully. But it did survive the weekend call. And so did I. Came Monday, I replaced it with a new one.
Maybe that’s another advantage of a pager. It can withstand the abuse of being “accidentally” dropped and still work. I will not dare do that to my i-Phone, which I also carry with me all the time.