A patient of one of my colleagues, away on vacation, came in for a problem he was having. We were in a fairly severe flu season and I noticed he had not been vaccinated. I asked him if he wanted a flu shot and he replied that he can get it for free at work. When I asked him if he was going to get one, he said no, that he didn’t believe in flu shots.
A patient of mine came to my office today for a bladder infection. Besides treating her with an antibiotic, I offered to prescribe Pyridium (phenazopyridine), a pill that decreases the burning with urination.
I always warn patients that it turns their urine orange. I told her that for Halloween today, it was only appropriate!
In school were you ever challenged to explain to someone how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich using words only? It’s harder than it sounds. Similarly it’s sometimes difficult to explain to a patient what I want them to do, at times to humorous effect. If you see yourself in any of the examples below, don’t take offense. I’m laughing with you, not at you!
As I bring an exam light up to check patient’s eyes, they often open their mouth, thinking I want to check their throat.
When checking guys for hernias I tell them to turn their head and cough. Men often turn their head to the left when I check their right side, then turn to the right when I check the left. The only purpose of having them turn their head is to not cough on me! Before doing this part of the exam I tell them to drop their drawers so I can check them for a hernia. I like to then slide forward the 2-3 feet on my stool, that has rollers, but guys often take a step towards me first, then I have to make sure I don’t butt heads when they naturally bend to drop their underwear. I also like to go to their right side so I don’t have to bend my wrist back, but in an attempt to be helpful, they often turn to the right to face me, so I have to slide farther to the side, thus doing a hernia check dance.
When I have people sit up on the exam table, they often start to lay down. I just want them to sit first since I like to examine their neck and listen to their lungs first. If not doing a full physical, I usually just pull up the shirt to listen to their lungs from the back side. When I then have them lay down, patients usually reflexively pull their shirt back down, but then I have to lift it back up to listen to their heart.
When patients have pain, such as in their abdomen, I’ll ask them to tell me if it hurts as I press in various areas. In an attempt to be helpful, patients off start pushing on their stomach themselves to try to find the tender areas, and sometimes will spend a fair amount of time doing so. I usually joke that they can examine themselves on their own time, but now it’s my turn.
The Health Information Portability Act (HIPAA) has criteria about not violating patient privacy, and potential harsh penalties for doing so. One needs to not only avoid saying a patient’s name to the public (meaning people not involved in the patient’s care), but not even to provide enough identifying information to allow someone to identify a patient. If you say you saw a 45-year-old male architect for diabetes, and there aren’t that many architects in town, you’ve probably supplied enough information for someone to figure out who you’re talking about.
I’m usually pretty conscious of it, and some of my colleagues are used to me ‘coughing’ “HIPAA” when they say a patient’s name aloud. One day, however, while eating lunch with my colleagues, I told the story of an 80+ man who came in complaining of a large bruise on his leg that he sustained after a fall when he tripped while running backwards. One of my colleagues said, “Was that Bob Smith*?”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“We go on the ski bus together and after he gets off he always runs backwards around the bus!”
*Not his real name, and yes, I got his permission to post this story.
According to the Wall Street Journal, on 10/16/11 Fauja Singh completed the Toronto marathon, finishing the 26.2 mile race in over 8 hours. I hope that will inspire my patients to exercise. I’ve started telling my octogenarians to start training for a half marathon. Heck, I’m letting them off easy.