Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Doctor's Routine

“Under your tongue… under your tongue… close your mouth… don’t bite!”

Seeing a thermometer, the guest had unbuttoned his shirt and lifted his arm. Over much of the world, doctors take a temperature in the armpit. It’s often a struggle to make a patient understand.

Once the thermometer is in place, I announce that I will wash my hands. This produces minor panic, and someone rushes to the bathroom to tidy up. After returning and announcing the temperature, I sometimes take the blood pressure. It’s not useful for most ailments I see, but patients, especially the elderly, often expect it.

After the examination, I announce the diagnosis and hand over an appropriate medicine. Then I give advice. You probably think it differs from patient to patient, but this is only partly true. I give several bits of advice regularly. These include:

“Rest doesn’t make this go away any quicker.”

Despite the universal belief, this is true for almost every illness, and it’s miserable to be confined to a hotel room during a vacation. I encourage sick guests to get out and have fun.

“You’ll feel bad for a few days, and then you’ll feel better.”

Once a doctor performs his magic, patients often expect immediate results. I receive plenty of calls the next day from guests wondering why they’re still sick.

“If you call, I answer in person.”

I demonstrate by holding up my cell phone. Of course, your doctor also encourages you to call, but have you tried? You reach voicemail or, if you’re lucky, a receptionist, and then you leave a message and wait. Being particularly compassionate, I want to spare patients this hassle. But I also don’t want them to call the hotel with the news that they’re not feeling better.

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