A story for all who have been through the multiple rounds of medical histories upon entering an emergency department.
A good friend found herself in a local ED with symptoms of appendicitis. The first medical history was taken by the triage nurse. Then, another nurse. Then, an intern. Then, a resident. Finally, the attending arrived, and he started the process again, writing while talking and making no eye contact.
By this time, my friend had memorized all the questions, and she figured she could speed up the process by anticipating the next questions and giving the answers in advance of their being asked. "Have you ever had abdominal surgery?" "Yes," she replied, and proceeding to the next as yet unasked questions, offered, "It was a complete hysterectomy, and it was three years ago."
Without pause, and without thinking, he said, "Is there any chance you are pregnant?"
She, feverish and in pain, raises up one elbow, looks directly into his eyes and says, "Either you are trying to introduce some levity into this situation, or that is the dumbest question you ever asked."
He turns deep red and leaves the room without another word.
Moral of the story: In a busy environment like an ED, it is all too easy for providers to go on "automatic pilot" and not really pay attention to what the patient is saying.