Doctors, patients and words – a true yet hilarious mixture…

Medical terms and instructions can be hard to understand, but some misinterpretations – despite their serious origins – can have everyone rolling around laughing.

Here are some examples of misunderstandings and other words-related goofs between doctors and patients, sent to me a few years ago from a friend in the USA. They are supposedly true and in my original version the doctors’ full names were given, but for the sake of discretion (and embarrassment!) I’ve abbreviated them to relative anonymity…

More than one cab

A man comes into the ER and yells, “My wife’s going to have her baby in the cab!” I grabbed my stuff,   rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady’s dress, and began to take off her underwear. Suddenly I noticed that there were several cabs, and I was in the wrong one.

–Dr. M MacD,San Antonio,TX

Do you speak with a lisp?

At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient’s anterior chest wall. Big breaths,” I instructed.” “Yes, they used to be,” replied the patient remorsefully.

–Dr. R B, Seattle,WA

Goof from the heart

One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a “massive internal f*rt.”

–Dr. S S, Manitoba, Canada

Patchy problems

During a patient’s two week follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, he informed me, his doctor, that he was having trouble with one of his medications. “Which one?” I asked. “The patch. The nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I’m running out of places to put it!” I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn’t see. Yes, the man had over fifty patches on his body! Now the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.

–Dr. R St. C, Norfolk, VA

Eye, eye, doctor…

I was performing a complete physical, including the visual acuity test. I placed the patient twenty feet from the chart and began, “Cover your right eye with your hand.” He read the 20/20 line perfectly. “Now your left.” Again, a flawless read. “Now both,” I requested. There was silence. He couldn’t even read the large E on the top line. I turned and discovered that he had done exactly what I had asked; he was standing there with both his eyes covered. I was laughing too hard to finish the exam.

–Dr. M T, Worcester, MA

The other use for a bed

While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked, “How long have you been bed-ridden?” After a look of complete confusion she answered. “Why, not for about twenty years, when my husband was alive.”

–Dr. S S, Corvallis, OR

Kentucky Yuk

I was caring for a woman from Kentucky and asked, ”so, how’s your breakfast this morning?” “It’s very good, except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can’t seem to get used to the taste,” the patient replied. I then asked to see the jelly and the woman produced a foil packet labeled “KY Jelly.”

–Dr. L K, Detroit, MI

Whistle while you work

A new, young MD doing his residency in obstetrics/gynecology was quite embarrassed performing female pelvic exams. To cover his embarrassment he had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly.  The middle aged lady upon whom he was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassed him. He looked up from his work and sheepishly said, “I’m sorry. Was I tickling you?” She replied, “No doctor, but the song you were whistling was ‘I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.”

–won’t admit his name!

Let’s make sure your writing is better than your doctor’s!

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“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

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Why doctors need to, er, improve their writing skills

Recent articles in the UK press have renewed public disapproval of doctors’ slang. This includes examples like “digging for worms” (varicose vein surgery), “departure lounge” (geriatric ward) and “TTFO” (told to f*ck off) coming in for the most criticism – presumably from former and existing patients who understandably don’t’ see the funny side.

We all know that pharmacists or druggists have supernatural powers of clairvoyance when asked to interpret doctors’ writing on prescription forms … so handwriting, as well as patient respect, ain’t the medicos’ strong point.

Worse still, it seems English ain’t their strong point, either – see below.

When I first received these alleged doctors’ notes by email from a friend I couldn’t believe that they could be real. However three weeks on a surgical ward in a British hospital last year changed my mind…they’re plausible, alright…

1. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year

2. On the 2nd day the knee was better and on the 3rd day it disappeared completely.

3. She has had no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

4. The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1993.

5. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.

6. Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

7. Healthy appearing decrepit 69 year-old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

8. The patient refused an autopsy.

9. The patient has no past history of suicides.

10. Patient has left his white blood cells at another hospital.

11. Patient’s past medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

13. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.

14. Since she can’t get pregnant with her husband, I thought you might like to work her up.

15. She is numb from her toes down.

16. While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.

17. The skin was moist and dry.

18. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches.

19. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

20. Rectal exam revealed a normal size thyroid.

21. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

22. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

23. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

24. Exam of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

25. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

26. The patient was to have a bowel resection. However, he took a job as a stockbroker instead.

27. Skin: Somewhat pale but present.

28. The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor.

29. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.

30. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.

31. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

Now, let’s really boost your writing skills!

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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