Maintaining our sanity in the emergency department sometimes means that we do silly things like giving patient reports in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, talking like a pirate, or repeatedly singing “Pants on the Ground.”

No one thought too much of it when one of our nurses started a new trend by in the nursing station by spontaneously saying “mmm-huh” after every sentence.
“It’s going to get up to 70 degrees today, mmm-huh.”
What’s wrong with you?
Nothing at all, mmm-huh.

So I started thinking. Did I say mmm-huh to someone? Was this some new YouTube video or song that I hadn’t seen or heard yet? What started this new little fad?

Grabbed the next chart and went into see a little old lady who came in with mental status changes.
I walked through the door. “Hey there, I’m Dr. WhiteCoat. I understand you aren’t feeling quite yourself lately?”
The patient didn’t answer.
The patient’s family member was in the room and said “She hasn’t been acting right lately, mmm-huh.”
I looked over at her. “Are you a relative?”
“I’m her daughter, mmm-huh.”

At that point I felt my face get red and had the incredible urge to laugh. I held the chart up in front of my face while I was writing. I got myself under control and started asking the patient questions even though she wasn’t answering me, so her daughter wouldn’t keep talking. Her daughter butted in anyway.
“She hasn’t mentioned any weakness to me, mmm-huh.”
My upper lip started to quiver and all I could do was fake a cough and say “hmmmm.”

At that point the ED tech came in to draw blood. He accidentally dropped the tourniquet on the ground. That was the excuse I needed. I busted out laughing.
Everyone looked at me – even the patient. I tried to stop laughing, but I couldn’t. Every time I thought I had it under control, I’d start laughing again.
“Sorry, but it’s kind of a running joke how clumsy Jeff can be at times.”
He looked at me as if to say “What the hell are you talking about”?
I just laughed more.

Once I was done in the room, I walked out and the nurse was standing at the nursing station with a smug little grin on her face.
“How did it go in there, mmm-huh?”
“You are so gonna get it … mmm-huh.”


  1. Hahaha, every time I hear stories like this one it makes me feel so much better. I’m quite given to laughing fits and once it starts there isn’t a single thing I can do about it. The more I tell myself that I shouldn’t be laughing/need to stop laughing/my laughter is wholly inappropriate, the harder I laugh. It’s gotten me into some real jams before.

    Not too terribly long ago, I was shadowing a doctor who was examining a patient with dementia. Some members of the family were present and they were all kinds of wild-eyed, but relatively calm and focused on the assessment taking place. The doctor was asking questions to gauge the patient’s grasp on reality, and I don’t recall the question nor the answer, but it struck me as being hilarious.

    I was yelling at myself to not even think about so much as cracking a smile…but I did it anyway. I started shaking a bit, laughing silently. Then a sound of exhalation through my nose (the kind that occurs when you’re trying to stifle laughter) occurred at the precise moment everyone had stopped talking. They looked at me, and I’m sure my face was bright red. Surely there was some divine intervention taking place because I instantly stopped laughing and told a little white lie about allergies or something. The proceedings commenced and, wouldn’t you know it, the first thing I wanted to do was start laughing again.

    When I got in my car to leave about half an hour later and could laugh until midnight if I cared to, nothing came. Completely stone-faced. Not even the slightest urge to laugh.


  2. THANK YOU!!! I needed this one! I busted out laughing ..really laughing. This is so funny. I love exquisite med humor and is one of my favorite things about med blogs. YOU are a riot! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am taking a writing break and so put up 5 of my favorite posts in one post. I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to share part of one of those posts because it exactly ties into your experience. Except is written from this patient’s perspective watching her doc try to control himself and wishing he would just laugh already. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I would hate to have been the pt rep in the room gathering info when you walked in. A. I would’ve been trying not to implode/explode with laughter B. If I glanced even for a split second and saw you ..omGOSH!

    Here is part of the post that applies: “Really…I don’t know how doctors keep straight faces sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚ What is their secret? is there a “No Laughing” 101 course in med school? And if there were such a class…what would they have to do to pass? Would they be faced with a daily barrage of the most outlandish and hilarious scenarios and then penalized for laughing? What about a smirk when looking off to the side? Although, I suppose if you even smirk…you run the risk of losing it all together. I know…Seaspray’s imagination gone wild again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Actually, I do have a funny story about a PCP I used to see who was dying to crack up at something I stated (as relayed to me by someone else) and then questioned. I swear he was turning magenta and looked like he was going to explode while still trying to answer the question. Really…it would have relieved the tension in the room if he just would’ve given in to his heaving shoulders, magenta face oh and dancing eyes.”

    Thanks again WC and also J O Morris for the laughs. ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. PS And this question I asked was based on something a respiratory therapist told me while working at the hospital. So ..then there I was the pt sitting upright on the exam table at the end of my appointment and my co-worker’s story came into my brain and so I casually… matter of factly .. and innocently, while looking into my docs eyes relayed the scenario and then asked the question relating to it. I don’t recall ever getting an answer and I think that is because he couldn’t talk about it at that point. The awkward tension was palpable… and hilarious that he was suffering so and I was embarrassed because I obviously asked something ridiculous or if true that scenario just cracked him up ..although if it could really happen would mortify me as the patient if it happened to me.

    Anyway ..since then I have wondered if my co-worker was just having some fun with me and I fell for it… but he was serious when he told me… although, I have to admit wouldn’t be the first time they got me with a joke! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Reminds me of “Sling Blade.”

    “I like the way you talk.”
    “I like the way you talk, too, uh-huh.”

  5. At least you weren’t doing a hernia check on a young man… Might have to send the patient in for a psych eval after that.

  6. Speaking of “damaged for life” the hernia comment reminded me something I heard a while back:

    The father takes his son in for his first sports physical, without explaining/warning him about the hernia exam.

    While the doctor is doing the “turn your head and cough routine” he notices the surprised and concerned look on the kids face and says:

    “don’t worry, just checking that there are four of them”

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