Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Too many people

When Doctor Annunciate pulled back the curtain and breezed into the small "room" with its unsheeted bed and broken down blood pressure monitor in the corner, I followed. I stood and waited for him to introduce me to the patient, "this is my medical student, she is following me around for the day". She looked over to me and said hello, asked me how I was, and we made a bit of polite conversation. In my head a voice was screaming, too many people, not enough chairs, I'm making the patient uncomfortable. Mrs. Z was there with her husband and they both looked to be in their seventies or eighties. She was quiet and looked worried, she held her husband's hand for comfort. She looked like an old fashioned sort of woman, someone for whom propriety and privacy were especially important.

They were sitting in the two chairs facing the bed. This left Dr. A and I to perch on the side of the mattress. The head of the bed was slightly inclined and didn't seem to want to flatten down. This meant that I was constantly fighting a battle with gravity, trying to avoid sliding into Dr. A's lap. I forgot my discomfort when Dr. A suddenly burst out in his very loud tenor voice, "So I hear you're having trouble with your bowels Mrs. Z." Everyone in the clinic must have heard him, especially the patients sitting in the waiting room right down the hall. Mrs. Z looked at me with pleading eyes, a bright red flush creeping from the collar of her blouse up to her forehead. She wasn't the only one who was embarassed - I wanted to help her dig a hole in the floor so we both could escape. Rest assured it's not the mention of bowels I found embarassing, it was the manner in which the doctor approached what was so obviously a private matter for the patient. We had established in our opening conversation that she was not hard of hearing, so there was no need to speak so loudly. Voice volume is an important part of speech and this doctor got it all wrong. I hope I never follow his example.

(note: names and circumstances have been changed to maintain the patient's privacy)

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