On-Call Schedule

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You might not give a lot of thought to the call schedule of your doctor or midwife, but given how many times women are attended in labor by someone they don’t know, you really need to have some basic knowledge of what’s going on. You can ask this before you hire a doctor or midwife or you can ask later in your prenatal care.

  1. How does your call schedule work?
    You will want to know how often your practitioner is on call. There may be a predictable pattern, like they are on every week night and every 1st and 3rd weekends. Or it may simply be done on a daily basis, for example, your practitioner works on Tuesdays and Fridays, 6 a.m. to 6 a.m.
  2. Can I get a copy of your call schedule?
    Some practices post call schedules. They may be on their website or posted in the waiting room. Other practices do not share this information.
  3. Who fills in for you if you aren’t there?
    This would typically be the partners in a practice, but if you are seeing a practitioner who does not have a partner, then it may be someone else.
  4. Can I meet any other back ups?
    If the back ups are in the practice you may be able to meet them during a prenatal visit, though some moms complain that this takes away from building a relationship with their provider. Other practices have a “Meet the Practitioner” night where everyone due soon is invited for a small presentation and chance to meet all the people who rotate call.
  1. Does the hospital I’ve chosen use hospitalists? And when are they used?
    Hospitals are physicians who only practice in the hospital. You may see them if your doctor or midwife can’t make it in time for your birth, if you need a second physician, as in the case of ac-section, or if your physician has them rotate in the call schedule. You should also ask your hospital.
  2. Do you have doctors, midwives, or both on call for the practice?
    If you’ve been seeing a midwife, you may not realize that sometimes only a doctor is on call, or vice versa. It’s important to know this beforehand.
  3. What do I do if the doctor or midwife on call is someone I don’t like?
    This is a hard question, particularly if you haven’t met the practitioner. You always have the right to refuse care from a doctor or midwife. The hospital will find you someone else, though you may not know them either.
  4. Will they give you special treatment?
    There are times when a practice might make exceptions to the call schedule. The rules may vary and some of that may or may not be up to your doctor or midwife. An example might be if you have a high risk pregnancy and there is only one high risk doctor in the practice.