After Office Hours

We are available for urgent calls 24/7. We know children’s illnesses can occur anytime. Parents often ask when they should call and for what reasons, so below are answers to commonly asked questions.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are too worried to wait till the office opens, call us.

Who is on call?
Evenings and overnights, one of our doctors or nurse practitioners.
Weekend mornings 8 a.m.—12 Noon a nurse is available for advice and to help you decide if you need an appointment on the weekend. After that, whichever doctor is on call for the weekend will return your call.

When should I expect a return call?
Usually within 15 minutes. If you have waited 30 minutes and no one has called you, call again, tell the answering service it is your second call and be sure your number is correct. Sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon it may take as long as an hour because the doctor is seeing patients. After 11 p.m.,  if you call us we assume it is a true emergency and we will call you back immediately. If you don’t hear back in 10 minutes, call again.

Where is the on call doctor or nurse practitioner?
After early evening at home and after 11 or so, probably asleep. The on call person is not at the office and awake as doctors are at hospitals. Nor is the on call provider with other providers from the office.

Can I speak to my child’s doctor or nurse practitioner when that person is not on call?
No, the person who is on call can help you. We take turns being available. Pertinent information can be given to the child’s provider the next day or whenever she/he is in the office next. As a parent in our practice, you need to be willing to talk to whoever is on call.

What should I do before I call?
Unless it is an emergency,  check this website for advice. It contains information about managing many common illnesses such as fevers, colds, vomiting, diarrhea and others, and may help get you through the night. If you still need to call, take your child’s temperature and have the phone number of an open pharmacy handy.

How do I get a call back?
Call our regular office number and ask for the on-call doctor or nurse practitioner. The answering service will page the call and the provider will call you back, usually within a few minutes.  Be sure the number has been correctly recorded by the answering service. Keep your line open, the ringer “ON” and disable your call block if you have one. It is frustrating to try to return a patient’s call during the night only to find that the line is busy, the number is wrong (we sometimes wake a stranger who really does not want to talk to us) or the call goes to voice mail. If you are calling from a cell phone be sure you have reception.

What can the doctor or nurse practitioner do for me during the night?
Give you advice about what to do till the morning. Sometimes we may decide your child’s problem cannot wait until the morning and may advise you to go to an emergency ward, (Children’s, Newton-Wellesley, or Norwood Hospitals, usually.) We do not advise this casually. We know it is difficult and expensive. If we advise you to go you need to go. We try our best to keep children out of emergency wards but sometimes we may be more worried than you are about something.

Should I call after hours or before the office opens to get an appointment?
No. The on call provider is not available for scheduling appointments.  If you need an early AM appointment call when the office opens at 8 AM.

Can I call for routine prescription refills from the on-call provider?
No. These must be called for during regular office hours. In addition, it is our policy not to call in prescriptions for antibiotics. It is not good medicine.

What problems should I call about during the night?
We can give you general guidelines, but, again, if you are too worried to wait till morning, you should call. You are there and we aren’t. Please do call if your child has any of the following problems:

  • Under 3 months of age with a fever over 100.4 (you will be going to an emergency room in this case)
  • Trouble breathing or non-stop coughing
  • Seems dehydrated, and/or lethargic
  • Fever with stiff neck
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness and/or vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Cannot be consoled

What problems can wait?
Most problems that have been going on for several days or weeks can wait until morning unless something has changed for the worse. If you wish to give your child Tylenol or ibuprofen, dosing is weight-based. We have a dosing chart on this website. Please do not call us for doses during the night unless you have to.

Anything else?
Yes. Thank you for the privilege of caring for your children. We hope this information makes it easier for you to use our help properly. Please ask your provider (during the day!) if you have further questions.