More Episodes from Patients

lessons learned

More Episodes from Patients

If there were a TV show on patient bloopers, this might be the script.


More episodes that illustrate you're not the only optometrist who occasionally has strange patients:

"One of the funniest responses I have received from patients (it's happened several times), is when I am doing BIO on a patient and ask him or her to look up and to the left," emails Dr. Lisa Stafford, Frankfort, Ind. "Several times I have had the patient ask, 'With which eye?'

"I want so BADLY to reply, 'Make your left look up and to the left, while you make your right eye look down and to the right.' But instead I just say, 'With your left eye.' No one seems to realize how foolish is their question."

Blurry street signs

"I laugh to myself when patients come back from traveling to different cities and report about the blurry street signs there," reports Dr. Robert Collins, Redmond, Wash.

This is a good example of the old "everyone's out of step, but me!" syndrome. Another example comes from a dentist friend of mine who reported on getting his driver's license exam.

"They asked the man in front of me to read the letters in the vision testing machine. 'I can't read those letters!' he responded indignantly. 'You've got them all out of focus!'"

"My shoes?"

"I joined a practice in Enfield, Conn., immediately after graduating from optometry school," says Dr. Daniel Lack of Lake Katrine, N.Y. "The practice had a contract with the state to examine prisoners at the maximum security prison in Somers. As the newest member of the team, the job of course was assigned to me.


"I asked an inmate about his problem and despite being surrounded by ophthalmic examination equipment, he said he needed a new pair of shoes. I explained that I was an eye doctor and he was there for an eye exam. I asked how long it had been since his last eye exam, and he said that he last saw his obstetrician a few years earlier, but had lost his glasses long before he was sent to the institution at which he currently resided.

"I found 4.00D of myopia (no wonder he was captured after robbing a bank—he couldn't see the police chasing him!). After explaining the results of the exam, I asked if he had any questions. 'Just one,' he replied. 'What about my shoes?'"

She "got" me

Sometimes patients' strange responses are intentional. I once asked a dignified and proper elderly lady during case history, "Do you have any current health problems?"

"Yes," she replied. "I have Aids." As soon as she saw my incredulous look of confusion, she died laughing as she pointed to her ear, and said, "One in each ear."

Other strange communication problems come about because of patients' misunderstanding of medical terms.

"A few years ago," writes Dr. Steve Van Dyke, Bemidji, Minn., "I examined a 30-year-old young lady. She had seen my associate a year before and was diagnosed as a glaucoma suspect due to increased C/D ratios. 'Last year I saw Dr. Dwyer,' she said. 'I liked him. He said I had large cups, so I thanked him and told him no one had ever told me that before.'"

Again, I've run out of space before running out of examples you've sent. So I'll have to finish the topic next month. Sure is nice having readers write my columns for me. OM