It may surprise you to know that doctors, in fact, get our most up-to-date medical knowledge from the National Enquirer (Man Gives Birth to Baby With Wooden Leg, Hospitalized With Splinters!), Sports Illustrated (Swimsuit Edition) and Reader’s Digest. The “I am Joe’s Pancreas, Kidney or Ovary” series personally got me through first year medical school.
A recent issue of Readers Digest discussed ten things that doctors wish they could tell you but were too diplomatic. Included were admonishments such as: call if you’re canceling your appointment, wash up, be honest about taking your medications blah blah. But nobody has ever accused me of being tactful and in fact few have accused me of being a doctor.
And so here are ten things we’d really like you to know for your visit.
1. Please turn off cell phones. While listening to your heart I get alarmed when I suddenly hear a strange galloping musical techno-tonic rhythm. So before I apply the paddles to your chest I suggest you turn off the phone. Some actually insist on taking calls. “Excuse me doctor but I should get this. Hi, snookums! Listen, I’m in with the doctor right now and judging by his red swollen face he looks busy, so let’s keep this to five minutes. Yes, his waiting room is full but I guess that’s why they called them patient, eh?”
2. Please don’t tell me the color of your pill. “I need a refill for the white one, smaller than a breadbox, you know…round, I often take it with water.” Perfect. Narrows it down to 38 million medications.
3. Please do tell me your symptoms, not your diagnosis. “Well my friend and I were studying Reader’s Digest and I know we both have the rare form of Eastern Moldavian pseudohypoparathyroidism. We need a referral right away to the best specialist in town. Oh, and if you could fill out these disability papers.”
4. Don’t play with your tongue stud while talking. I swear I am so distracted by watching this marble flicking out at me, that you start to morph into a Komodo lizard testing the air. “So I (clickclick) was wondering if you could check my (clickclickclick) ears. I keep (clickclack) hearing this strange noise when I swallow. Kind of a clicking sound.”
5. Please don’t turn a child’s visit to a busy doctor into a field trip growth experience. “Tell the doctor what’s wrong Aniston Moonchild.” Three minutes of girl playing with shoelaces, “Go on now. Tell him when you’re ready.” Three minutes of silence as she explores the blood pressure cuff. “Perhaps you could tell me, Mrs. Bloggins.” “No, no just give her time.” 29 minutes later, “You tell him, mom.” This is the same parent who, just before the child is about to get a vaccine, warns, “Now don’t move a muscle or this will REALLY REALLY hurt, OK lovepuffin.”
6. Please notice those two really large earplugs called a stethoscope that I wear when I take your blood pressure or listen to your chest. I know you’re talking because I can see your lips flapping and hear some muffled noise from your lungs that sounds like Chewbacca with a sinus problem.
7. Please don’t try to sneak an extra patient in. “Oh and since we’re here could you take a look at Ron’s prostate, it’s been acting strange lately.”
8. Please don’t call and ask for medication refills without giving me any information. If I had a Nortel nickel for every message on my answering machine like “Hey doc, it’s Bill. I need a refill of my pills. Could you call that in to the pharmacy?” OK, Bill but what pharmacy, what drug and I realize you are the only Bill in your family but… who are you?
9. Don’t spit into a Kleenex to show me, (gag) just before lunch. “It’s green doc, wanna see?” “I believe you Bloggins.” “No wait, here.” (hairball choking sound). “Thanks for the diet idea, Bloggins.”
10. Don’t expect me to remember your problem from three years ago. “You remember, the rash I had on my left elbow in ’87. Can you give me the same thing you gave me, the white pill, kinda round… smaller than a breadbox.”