From one doctor to another: “I don’t think we’re ever getting out of here.”



Scene: Medical office, 9 a.m., waiting room full, chairs in hall full

Players: 2 nurses, 1 clerk, 2 doctors, lots of patients

Doc 1: “Hey, what’s up? I’m sitting on my ass here, and there’s a room full of patients waiting.”

Nurse 1: “Hold on Doc, I’m almost done checking one in.”

“So, Mrs. Smith, do you feel safe in your own home?”

Patient 1: “It’s Sister Jan, actually. My convent is quite safe.”

Nurse 1: “And when was your last sexual encounter?”

Patient 1:” ??”

Doc 1 to Doc 2: “Oy. Why don’t you check up front, see what’s up?”

Clerk to patient: “I need to ask you a series of questions as part of our mandated check-in process. Is that OK?”

Patient 2: nods

Clerk: “I’m sorry, your answer has to be verbalized. Would you like me to repeat the question.”

Patient 2: “No, thanks.”

Clerk: “So you don’t agree to answer the questions?”

Patient 2: “No, I mean yes, of course I will. I was saying no about repeating the question.”

Clerk: “OK, that’s fine. First, are you here today as a result of an auto accident, an injury sustained at work or in the armed forces?”

Patient 2: “I’m not here for an injury. I’m here for my blood pressure.”

Clerk: “Sir, please don’t talk about your privileged health information in the lobby like this. I could get in big trouble. Can you just answer the questions yes or no?”

Patient 2: “Yes.”

Clerk: “So you are here because of an injury sustained in one of the mentioned contexts?”

Patient 2: “No! I mean I’ll answer yes and no!”

Clerk: “OK, are you a dialysis patient?”

Patient 2: “No.”

Clerk: “Have you traveled outside the continental United States in the last 90 days?”

Patient 2: “Yes.”

Clerk, donning a mask: “Where did you travel?”

Patient 2: “Windsor, Ontario. I love the duty-free shop. Just a hop over the bridge and back!”

Clerk: “The government requires I ask you about your race. Can you tell me whether you are Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Native-Pacific Islander, Declines to Answer, or Other?”

Patient 2: “I’ll take ‘Declines to Answer.'”

Clerk: “Now I have to ask about your ethnicity …”

Patient 2: “Wait, we just did that. I declined.”

Clerk: “That was for race, Sir. This is “ethnicity.”

Patient 1: “I’ll make it quick for you. I decline to answer.”

Clerk: “What is your shoe size?”

Patient 2: “Uh, 12″

Clerk: “Good, we’re getting there. As soon as we finish you can see the nurse.”

Patient 2: “What about my doctor appointment? It started a half-hour ago.”

Clerk: “The doctor cannot see you until the nurse evaluates you. Just a few more questions now. Do you eat meat?”

Patient 2: “Yes.”

Clerk: “Beef, chicken, fish, goat, or other?”

Patient 2: “Uh, any I guess.”

Clerk: “Please be specific.”

Patient 2: “I’ve eaten them all at one time or another. Except goat.”

Clerk: “Is there something special about goat that keeps you from eating it?”

Patient 2:”What do you mean?”

Clerk: “Is the reason you refuse to eat goat one or more of the following: I don’t like the flavor; I never got around to it; It’s against my religion; I believe goats are strictly for sexual satisfaction.”

Patient 2: “It doesn’t say that!”

Clerk, turning the screen around: “Yes, it does, see? Please just answer.”

Patient 2: “I’ll take the one that said never got around to it. That’s the last one?”

Clerk: Ok, the last one, “I believe goats are strictly for sexual satisfaction.”

Patient 2: “No! I never got around to it!”

Clerk: “Whether you’ve acted on your urges isn’t my business. I only enter your responses.”

Patient 2: “No, I meant that I never got around to eating goat. I don’t believe in goat sex.”

Clerk: “You should have been clearer. I’ve already exited that screen, and you cannot change your answer.”

Doc 1 to Doc 2: “I don’t think we’re ever getting out of here.”

“PalMD” is an internal medicine physician who blogs at White Coat Underground.

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