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Keeping A Straight Face In Medicine

I was reading Keagirl’s latest post about a urology consult that she did in the psychiatric lock-down unit. Her patient was hearing voices – specifically that his left testicle was speaking to him. The good doctor was able to maintain a straight face through the exam and interview. There have been times when I suspect that my expression has given away my underlying feelings. A few of my awkward moments:


Dr. Val: Hello, Mr. R. I understand that you’ve had thrush in the recent past, and that your CD4 count has been as low as 25. Have you had any problems with thrush lately?

Mr. R: Oh, not at all. I found a way to cure it.

Dr. Val: Oh, very good. Tell me what works for you [expecting to hear 'nystatin swish and swallow' or 'diflucan,' I smile hopefully at the patient].

Mr. R: Well, basically since I started drinking my own urine the thrush has gone away.

Dr. Val: Oh… [pregnant pause] I see [scribbles note on clipboard as she takes one step back from the bedside.]


Dr. Val: [interviewing new patient in the inpatient drug detox program] So tell me a little bit about what brings you here today, Mr. S.

Mr. S: Well, you know, I have a real problem with crack cocaine, heroine, and alcohol.

Dr. Val: Yes, I see. Well, it’s good that you’re here now. [I smile genuinely].

Mr. S: But doc, I have to tell you why this all started.

Dr. Val: [Leaning forward, expecting a potentially important insight] Yes, what do you think is behind the drug addiction, Mr. S?

Mr. S: Well, I was born with a deformed penis and I think a lot of this has to do with my low self-esteem.

Dr. Val: Hmm. Well, I can see how that might be very challenging to overcome [eyebrows furrowing in a concerned expression mixed with mild awkwardness and some surprise].

Mr. S: I’d really like to show you what I’m talking about.

Dr. Val: Um… well, I uh… don’t think that will be necessary at this time. I trust you…


Nurse: [calling from psychiatric lock-down unit]: Is this the rehab consultant?

Dr. Val: Yes, I’m on call for rehab today.

Nurse: We have a man here with difficulty swallowing and we were wondering if you could take a look.

Dr. Val: Ok, what brought him to the psychiatric lock down unit?

Nurse: Well, he tried to kill a nurse at the transferring hospital – she got too close and he got a hold of her neck. But he’s not too hard to pry off because he has no eyes.

Dr. Val: No eyes?!

Nurse: Yeah, he cut them out several years ago during a psychotic episode. He used a piece of broken glass to gouge out his eyes and cut off his nose and ears too.

Dr. Val: Oh my gosh… that’s really terrifying. [Pauses with images of Silence of the Lambs floating through her mind] May I ask why he can’t swallow?

Nurse: I don’t know why he can’t swallow. That’s why I’m calling you.

Dr. Val: Well, I mean, how do you know he’s not swallowing? Did you see him choke?

Nurse: No he’s not drinking at all.

Dr. Val: Well, is there a cup next to him? Does he know it’s there?

Nurse: [silence]

Dr. Val: Ok, I’ll put him on my consult list…


You can’t make this stuff up.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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3 Responses to “Keeping A Straight Face In Medicine”

  1. PearlsAndDreams says:

     THANKS for the laugh …  you’ve no idea how much good it did my soul today!!!

  2. RH Host Melissa says:

    That was too funny Dr. Val.  Thanks for sharing :)   

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