Sunday, September 4, 2011

I will wrangle a medical symptom out of you if it is the last thing I ever do

Our instructions for patient interviewing day:

"Try to get their chief concern. Ask abut any pain; try to get them to describe it. Really bore into the illness or complaint they have. Work on taking a medical history including past illnesses, medications, allergies. Then, if you have time, get some social history including home life, marital status, diet and exercise."

Here's how my interview went:

"Hello! My name is K8 and I am a first year medical student. We are learning how to interview; would you mind if I asked you some questions?"

"That's fine."

"Great. Can you tell me about if you have any medical concerns today?"


"Okay, perhaps you could tell me about the last time you went to the doctor?"

"I don't go to the doctor."

"Have you ever been to the hospital?"


"How old are you?"


(And you've never been to the hospital or the doctors....okay....)

"Do you take any medications?"

"Yes, I take medications for high cholesterol and for my eye."

(How did you get medications for high cholesterol?)

"Oh, what is bothering you with your eye?"

"Nothing. I take a vitamin to help it."

"Does the vitamin help it?"


25 minutes later, getting no further information about the high cholesterol or eye:

"What do you do for work?"

"I volunteer at the hospital. Ever since I had TB, and the hospital fixed me right up, I've volunteered there because they were so wonderful."


"Tell me about having TB."

"No, I don't talk about that. I tried to forget it ever happened."

"Alright then, thank you for your time. That's all the questions I have for you."


Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate these volunteers helping us hone our interviewing skills. But I could not get ANY information out of this person that my preceptor wanted. My preceptor said I gave it a gallant effort, and unfortunately, this type of conversation is very similar to what I will deal with as a physician.


In other news, let's mock the first year medical students interviewing skills, because seriously, this is how I feel:


  1. Oh....welcome to medicine! Just wait until it's 3 in the morning and you can't get a history from someone. My all-time personal favourite was a woman in her 80s who said she'd never had surgery, but had about 8 different surgical scars including a mastectomy. Gotta laugh.

  2. Getting a history from a confused patient is as interesting as it is torture! I am a bit confused about this volunteer patients thing as I am from the UK but yeah, confused patients are a constant headdesk for me. I usually end up walking over to the nurses' desk like a rockstar and looking at the patients' notes. Win. :)

    PS: Hi! I'm a Y4 UK med student! Came to your blog through Cartoon guide to med school :)

  3. @Sunrise Lovely to have you here. The volunteer patients are simply patients who volunteer to let a first year medical student, who basically knows nothing, practice taking a medical history. I think they are thinking better to practice before being thrown into the lion's den on rotations.