I never realized how little I laughed with the patients in my job until just a few days ago. In our job, we’re always usually seeing a patient that is quite sick, and laughing at times just seems a little inappropriate. Also, depending on some patients, it can be hard to build up enough rapport to crack some jokes with them after just a couple of minutes (in ED, we’d probably only spend 10-15 minutes on history).
One of the patients I was seeing came in with chest pain, and was quite hard of hearing. So I ended up almost shouting my questions. In coming to systems review, I was just asking about bowel motions and urinary symptoms. Here’s how my conversation ended up:
“So how have your bowel motions been lately?”
Patient looks at me with puzzled expression
“Are you having any problems going to the toilet to pass stools?”
Still has puzzled expression on face.
“Ok, are you having any problems doing poos in the toilet?”
Patient thinks a bit, and then looks at me with understanding
“You mean how is my shit?”
I had a really good laugh after the patient said “shit”. Considering the patient was hard of hearing, and I was shouting my questions at him, I wonder what the patients in the next cubicles would have been thinking, and how disgusted they would be that I was so curious about how my patient’s “shit” was like.
But the man reminded me, that even though in medicine, you face a lot of serious disease, and people who are unwell, it’s certainly nice to have a laugh about things. My patient certainly made the day that much more enjoyable after such a laugh.