Let them eat beef stroganoff

I had a patient encounter as a medical student that is too ridiculous for me to have made up:

The patient is a 80-year old former social worker who presented with a lower GI bleed. She got a colonoscopy today, but the bowel prep was incomplete, so after trying to scope, the GI docs scheduled her for a repeat tomorrow, which means she would also have to repeat the bowel prep and remain NPO (nothing by mouth).

I am literally just walking down the hall when the patient accosts me in the middle of the hallway. “You!” She points her finger at me. “You and your team screwed me over. I can’t even have my supper. No one cares about me. I’m not even sure who to blame; this whole hospital sucks and I’m never coming back here again!” Mind you, we are surrounded by nurses, PAs, and other patients.

To which I reply something like, sorry you feel that way…but I’m just the med student?! I lead her back to her room and scurry away to find one of my interns, only to later find the patient yelling at the other intern about how she’s “just a wind-up machine in a white coat.” Ah, the magic of the doctor-patient relationship.

Eventually they work out a deal: the patient gets to have dinner and will still go through with the bowel prep. Twenty minutes later, I go to the patient’s room, finding her happily munching on beef stroganoff. She apologizes for being testy. I apologize for whatever perceived faults the hospital has, and tell her that whatever happens in the hospital stays in the hospital.

My takeaway from this? Let patients have their supper. Only then can you negotiate plans.


About the friendly intern

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