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I’m glad that I’m not one of your residents!
Contrary to your story, notifications can easily be changed on your iPhone. If you don’t want a notification on your Apple Watch, just turn it off on your iPhone. And rather than putting your Apple Watch in ‘Airplane Mode’ just go to ‘Sounds & Haptics’ on the Apple Watch App on your iPhone and either mute the settings or adjust to your liking.
Personally, I think it is a lot more ‘professional’ and less intrusive to take a quick glance at your watch rather than pulling your phone out. While it goes without saying that it’s best to give your patient your undivided attention, there are times when you must respond to a notification (for example, when I’m on call for Stroke Call at our local ER.)
PS: A more recent Verge article goes into better detail about Notification Hell: