There are phrases that make doctors cringe in fear (especially “Oh by the way" — as detailed in this post) (which, oh by the way, predates WayfaringMD’s Oh By the Way post by a couple years, heh heh).
And there are phrases that automatically downgrade our internal estimate of your intelligence (such as “98.6 degrees is a fever for ME, because my normal body temp is 97”).
But then there’s The Phrase which just makes me… uncomfortable.
The Phrase? “Didn’t do anything" — as in:
I went to the ER for my back pain this morning, but they didn’t do anything about it, so that’s why I came to the Urgent Care.
I can’t outright hate on The Phrase, since Lord knows I’ve witnessed (first-hand or second-hand) clinical situations where healthcare providers have ignored, downplayed, or outright laughed-off symptoms which (in my opinion) deserved treatment, or at the very least, reassurance. And while I’d like to believe that every doctor is a “good” doctor with clinical and communications skills par excellence, I quite aware that there are bad doctors out there — and even the good ones have their bad moments.
But sometimes, the patient’s definition of “didn’t do anything” doesn’t match MY definition. After all, when the ER notes indicate that you back pain started without an injury, that you had a back exam and spine xrays performed, and you were discharged with 12 tabs of hydrocodone, a 2-day excuse note from work, and instructions to see an orthopedic doctor, but to return to the ER if X, Y, or Z symptoms develop… then it’s hard for me to accept your claim at face value.
THEY DID A LOT OF THINGS. They heard your symptoms, they examined, they imaged, they prescribed, and they told you what to do next. They may not have explicitly stated this fact to you, but they did what an Emergency Room physician is supposed to do: be sure that the patient in the Room is not having an Emergency. Now you are supposed to do YOUR part as a patient: follow instructions, observe your body for red flags, make follow-up appointments, get some rest, and take your medication.
(Speaking of which, in the particular case I’m referring to in this parable, the patient hadn’t even tried taking the pain medication before coming to my Urgent Care.)
So when you utter The Phrase at me, I’m sorry if I don’t display as much sympathy as you hoped to elicit. I’m kinda distracted, you see, calculating how long it’ll be until you’re off somewhere, complaining to some other doctor that “The Urgent Care doctor didn’t do anything for me…”