Article Date: 6/1/2005

lessons learned
Life's Not Always Easy

Sometimes it involves dealing with less-than-brilliant patients.

Doctor, Mr. Kaput just fell over dead as he was leaving our office after you examined him!" wailed the doctor's assistant. "What should we do?"

"The first thing we need to do," replied the physician, "is to turn him around so it looks as if he was entering the office rather than leaving it."

A pretty intelligent move as I see it. All of us in the healthcare professions want to appear more intelligent than our patients. With some patients, that's not exactly a Herculean task.



Many of you have e-mailed me examples of such patients. Following are some of these, to assure you that you are not alone in having to often deal with patients who are no challenge to Einstein:

"Since you are obviously out of original material, I am pleased to help out by reporting on two true dumb incidents I recall," wrote my friend(?) Dr. Bob Koetting:

During my early days in contact lenses, our patient instructions included the advice to "rinse your lenses in tepid water after using the cleaning solution." One lady called immediately after she got home to ask, "Where can I buy that tepid water?"

Another illustration occurred while examining a young patient with one obviously dilated pupil. I asked the mother whether she had noticed that his pupils were not the same size. Before she could answer, the youngster cut in to say, "Well, some of the kids in my class are about the same, but a lot of them are shorter."

Which reminds me of the question I was once asked by another O.D.: "What is the technical term for a person with small pupils?" Racking my brain, I could not remember ever hearing a term for this condition. So I gave up.

"A kindergarten teacher," was his triumphant reply.

Talking to me?

Dr. John Bielinski also has had some exasperating experiences:

"Can you read the bottom line?" I asked a patient. His reply, "I can see the T and the Z and the L, but I can't see the V or the E or the C."

Another patient, an elderly gentleman: During the subjective, I asked a question to which he made no response. Thinking he perhaps had not heard me, I repeated the question. He finally said, "Are you talking to me?" There were only the two of us in the room.

Too young

At the recent SECO meeting, Dr. Jerry Parks told me of an episode he had experienced:

A young girl with her baby in her arms came in for examination. During the course of our conversation, I asked something about her husband, the father of her baby. "I'm not married, for heaven's sake!" she declared. "After all, I'm only 14 years old!"

My favorite

Probably my favorite contribution on the subject came from Dr. Cheryl Schmitt:

The five year old patient's mother was concerned when I told her that her son needed glasses to correct his nearsightedness. "Has their been any history in the family of anyone who was nearsighted" I asked. "My husband was very nearsighted" she replied, "but he couldn't have been responsible for my son's condition, because he had laser surgery to correct it a couple of years before the child was born."



Optometric Management, Issue: June 2005