Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Day 26:

I think it's easy to forget that our patients (for the most part) don't live in the hospital 24/7. It's not that doctors and medical students are inept at communicating with them; rather, certain things become so routine to us that we simply forget how alien some terms and phrases may seem to the typical patient.

For example, I asked a 42 year old woman in clinic this afternoon when she had had her last mammogram. She told me, "November." I asked about her last pap smear and after giving me a funny look, she once again said, "November." In actuality, her last mammogram had been the previous July, but for one reason or another, we figured out together, she had confused the terms "mammogram" and "pap smear" in her head and had thought the two were the same thing.

Another time, I was with a fellow student who asked a patient if he had ever had a "pulmonary function test." The patient thought about the question for a couple seconds, then confidently wheezed to us, "Nope! Never had one of those!"

The other student might have moved on with her interview, but I wasn't thoroughly convinced by the patient's answer (even though it was gasped out with such conviction), so I quickly interjected, "You've never had a test where you breathe into a tube in a machine?"

"Ohhhh... yeah," he replied. "Where they sit ya in a machine and you puff into a tube? I've done that before, sure. Over at [such-and-such a hospital]."

Miscommunication happens. Simple as that. (And goodness only knows how much I've missed - and will continue to miss - through poor questioning technique.)

The moral of the story: just remember how much jargon is out there. You can't ask every patient about "nausea" and expect them to give you an accurate answer. Ask about belly pain, stomach ache, feeling sick to one's stomach, etc. Clarify, clarify, clarify - the three golden keys to a sound medical history.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger Danielle said...

Wise words, Lucas

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Toodleyboots said...

Nicely said. :)


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