One night this week, one of my physician assistants came to me frustrated that the patient he had gone to see had run him off, saying he wanted another doctor. Matt had addressed two complaints the patient had: difficulty urinating and a nagging cough. When the patient went on to more complaints, including shoulder pain he had been suffering with for over a year, Matt recommended he take up these more chronic problems with his primary care physician. That is when the patient ran Matt off.
It was now my turn. I found an elderly man asleep on a gurney wearing sunglasses and a beret pulled down over his face. I introduced myself and went over his first two problems. When I asked him if he had any other concerns, he told me about his shoulder pain, for which his primary care doctor usually gave him Vicodin. He then said all he wanted was to be treated with sympathy.
I asked him if he had come for sympathy or for Vicodin. He calmly answered, “Vicodin would be fine, thank you very much.”
This all took place in the hall right in the busiest part of the emergency department and as soon as he answered my question, I was surrounded by suppressed laughs. I had not intended my question to be comical. I’m sure he didn’t intend his answer to be funny either, but, together, they made everyone laugh. This was especially funny to staff surrounded every day by people looking for opioids for their chronic aches and pains.