The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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March 20, 2014

The 10 types of ER patients

(Continued)

2. The Second-Opinion Seeker. You've had months of troublesome symptoms. Nobody - not your primary care physician, not the five specialists you've seen - has given you a satisfactory answer. We understand that you're concerned, but it's unlikely that in the ER, with limited time and resources, we can give you the in-depth investigation you deserve. Ask your regular doctor for referrals and further testing. Keep in mind that we have finite resources; if you're in our emergency MRI for your chronic knee pain, that means the patient with the possible stroke needs to wait.



3. The Googler. The Internet can be a powerful tool for empowering patients, but please use it responsibly. Looking up your symptoms yourself might turn up that you have a brain tumor when you have food poisoning or that you are pregnant when you have belly pain (and you're a man). Use the Internet to help you understand your diagnosis and treatment and to come up with questions - not to diagnose yourself.

4. The "Pain All Over" Patient. We call it the "positive review of systems" when you say yes to everything we ask. Headache? Chest pain? Shortness of breath? Fatigue? Muscle aches? Yes, yes, of course, yes. Some illnesses really affect many parts of the your body, but more often than not, patients will say yes to convince us they are ill. We know you aren't well, so tell us the truth. (If you don't, you run the risk of undergoing unnecessary testing.) If everything hurts, try to tell us your story. When did you last feel normal and well? What happened then? And please don't exaggerate. If you say that your pain is 15 out of 10, but you're eating lunch and texting on your iPhone, it's hard for us to calibrate your symptoms.

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