"We can't give advice over the telephone"

I try to avoid answering the phones at work. I'm not lazy. I'm just incompetent. I can't work the phones and generally end up hanging up on people I'm trying to transfer, for one thing, and also I don't know the answers to most of the questions (especially "this is Doctor Someone-I've-Never-Heard-Of" [how can I help you?] "SOMEONE PAGED ME!" [ALL RIGHT! Let me go ask around...]). The unit secretaries actually run our department, as they do everywhere else. But the main reason I try to avoid answering phones is because it's possible the person on the other end is calling for medical advice.

Calls for medical advice NEVER end well.

We can't give medical advice over the phone, and nobody likes hearing they have to come be seen by a doctor to receive said advice. Not even the triage nurse can give medical advice. No, you have to write your name on the paper and sit in the waiting room and then sit in an ER room, and then an ER doctor will be more than happy to advise you.

Our secretaries field the question about 9 times per hour on average, so they handle it well. Not as well, though, as a doc I overheard who heard a secretary getting yelled at by a mad advice-seeker. She snatched the phone away and identified herself as a doctor. She listened for a while and then said, "Ma'am, what color is the shirt I'm wearing?" Even louder yelling came out of the receiver. Then: "If you can't tell what color my shirt is, how am I supposed to diagnose you over the phone?"

I think they hung up. I thought it was a pretty good point.