Monday, January 10, 2011

Just One More Question

In addition to our love of distinctive coats, Lt. Columbo and I share something else in common: we're always asking one more question. As a first year medical student, I practice taking a history and physical on patients in the emergency department. It's a great learning experience and a needed counterbalance to the hours spent in the library, but it requires some patience from the patients.

A typical ED patient will be likely be asked a similar set of questions by a triage nurse, their actual nurse, a resident, maybe a 3rd or 4th year medical student, and the attending. At the end of a long and uncomfortable visit, plucky Second Shift, MS-I might not be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Which is why my mentor and I always ask the patient's permission before I take their time, explaining that this opportunity is a valuable part of my education. If the patient looks too sick, or would rather not be bothered, we thank them for their time and move on. A few are annoyed at the interruption, some respond only with terse replies, but the overwhelming majority generously give of their time and eagerly participate.

While reconnecting with family over the holidays, one older cousin asked if I had begun interviewing patients yet. He angrily recounted how a medical student once asked him about symptoms that he never had, accusing the student of being lazy and not taking the time to actually read his chart. I tried to explain things from the med student perspective, but whether the student was actually lazy or just conducting a review of symptoms, we'll never know.

So, to anyone who has ever endured a barrage of seemingly random questions from a neophyte medical student: Thank You. It may be a bit of a hassle, but you really are helping us become better doctors.

No comments: