We’re experts at assessment, treatment and disposition of life threatening emergencies. We’re also good at that stuff for all the other reasons people call 911, but when it comes to more complex medical issues we are lousy at assessment and can muddy the waters for the rest of the medical community.
But don’t worry fellow medics, there is a solution I have discovered after almost 2 decades of falling into this trap:
Luckily it’s a skill I know for sure you possess. Use simple lay person terms when speaking to the doctor. “Adverse Lung Sounds” becomes “Funny breathing noises” for example. Leave your education at the door and use the simplest terms to describe your condition. Over simplify it if you have to. At a recent visit I told my MD that I thought I heard a kind of clicking or bubbling in my throat at night and it always happened if I didn’t use both pillows and even then I could still hear it. Had I tried to describe to him that I was sure I was experiencing pneumonia symptoms all he would have heard was “Hi, Antibiotics please.”
Instead he explained the difference between a bacteria and a virus and I let him. I pointed out that I only had 2 of the 5 signs of a viral infection and 4 of the 5 for bacterial bronchitis or pneumonia. I then mentioned my daughter was recently given (Not prescribed) medicine for her pneumonia and she got better almost overnight.
He pondered my statement and I looked at him and said “Doc, drugs or no I just need to be able to sleep so I can get back to work.”
Prescription in hand and meds on board I can tell you that right now (18 hrs post loading dose) I awoke after almost 4 hours uninterrupted sleep after having done about the same time at least once more in the night. HUGE improvement.
Had I gone in as a medic and explained my self assessment I keep him from doing his full assessment and he may not reach the same conclusions we do. Had my kid not been sick with the same thing last week I’d be in the weeds.
After all, isn’t your least favorite patient the one that calls you and then proceeds to tell you their assessment findings?