So I had a problem with a patient and family recently and I’m looking for solutions from everyone who reads this blog.
An elderly patient who lives at home with his wife, his son, and his son’s family was brought by the ambulance to the emergency department for “not feeling well.”
As I attempted to get more of a history about the patient’s symptoms, the discussions angered the family.
“When you say that you don’t feel well, what do you mean?”
“I’m sick! That’s why I came here so you could tell me what’s wrong.”
“But I don’t understand what you mean when you say that you’re ‘sick.’ Do you mean that you’re nauseous or you’re having pain or you’re feeling weak?”
“No, none of that.”
The daughter in law then stood up next to the bed and firmly said that he “just doesn’t look right.”
That didn’t help me much, so I said “I’ve never seen him before, so I don’t know where to begin in finding out what is wrong. What about him doesn’t look right to you?”
She threw her arms up in the air and rolled her eyes. “What do you want me to say? He doesn’t look right.”
No, I didn’t grab his head, turn it to the right and say “There … problem solved.” I just stopped asking about his symptoms.
“OK, well how long has he not been looking right for?”
“Oh, it’s been a while now ….”
After about 15 minutes, I was able to determine that the patient was sleeping more than usual for anywhere between 3 days and a week, depending on who was answering my questions.
After I left the room, the nurse told me that the whole family was upset with me because I was being “difficult.”
So the questions I have for you all are the following:
1. If you’re in the medical field, and a patient/family provide you with a vague history, do you try to find out more information? If so, what approach do you use?
2. If you’re not in the medical field, how would you suggest that a health care provider respond to you if the information that you are giving them isn’t helping them figure out what may be wrong with you?
I think that these are questions that a lot of people would like to know, so please chime in below.