December 29th, 2022

Patients Say the Darndest Things

Mikita Arora, MD

Dr. Arora is a Family Medicine resident at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, MI.

children laughingI’m a third-year family medicine resident. One of the great things about this specialty is the time you spend getting to know your patients. By creating a special relationship with them, you become their confidant, and they share all kinds of things about their health and life. Sometimes what they share is hilarious! Here are a few funny and unusual things patients have said to me and the story behind them:

1. What size is your underwear? I will bring you some back from my country because they make good ones there.

I had to do a pelvic exam for one of my patients because of her chief complaint. She wasn’t expecting me to do one this visit, and she apologized because she was a little embarrassed about the underwear she wore. I told her that I wasn’t even concerned about that. She then continued to say how in her country they make better-quality underwear than they do in America. She then casually asked me what my size was and stated she would bring me some back from her country when she went. I told her that I can’t accept gifts from patients.

2. Are those house slippers? Actually, you have beautiful ankles.

pink slippersIn the summer, I like to wear Toms shoes with my scrubs instead of sneakers. Before I met this middle-aged male patient who had been coming to our clinic for a long time, my medical assistant warned me by saying he’s very flirty. I took it with a grain of salt, because I was focused on everything that I had to address with him. As we were talking about his recent medication changes, he asked me if I was wearing house slippers. He then continues to ask me where I got those shoes, because his wife would love a pair. He finishes by saying, “Actually, you have beautiful ankles.” I laughed out loud but thought it was creepy.

3. Do I have to tell you why I went to jail before? It may scare you and I may have to kill you too! handcuffs

There was a period of time in the clinic where every week one of my new patients was recently incarcerated or released. I felt like they were all friends coming to see me. During my first encounter with a patient, I usually take a very detailed history. I ask what they do for a living during the social history aspect. This patient responded, “Do I have to tell you why I went to jail before? It may scare you and I may have to kill you too!” It was the “too” that gave me the chills.

4. Did I get trichomoniasis from the toilet seat?

cartoon toiletI’m sure many of you have heard this one before. This middle-aged woman with uncontrolled diabetes was getting frequent vaginal discharge and dysuria and wanted to be treated with antibiotics, because it was causing her discomfort. I explained to her that we should test her for sexually transmitted infections along with a urinary tract infection. She told me she didn’t want to be tested for sexually transmitted infections because she was divorced and not currently sexually active. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, since she had uncontrolled diabetes and I assumed she just had a yeast infection. However, I convinced her that she should just get tested because she already gave her urine sample. She listened.

Surprise, surprise! Her test results came back positive for trichomoniasis. I then explained what it was and how it is contracted. She then says, “Well, I lied to you and I have been with my ex-husband. Does this mean he gave it to me? Is he cheating on me?” I answered, “I don’t know, because this is something that is transmitted sexually, and you may have given it to him.” She then asks if she can get it from a toilet seat. She wanted to make sure she learned all the facts before she spoke with her ex-husband.

5. Doctor, I think you’ll benefit from drinking collagen and taking multivitamins. I am concerned about you.

During the annual physical exam, I spend some time talking about diet, exercise, and sleep hygiene with all my patients. This 40-year-old woman was fantastic. Her bloodwork was great and she was healthy. I complimented her, saying I was proud of her and she should keep up the good work. Her response was that she wasn’t concerned about her health, because she knew the great job she was doing. She was concerned about my health and went on counseling me about how I should be drinking collagen and taking vitamins because my hair is thinning. Point noted!

6. I need to get tested. I have a lot of sex for someone my age (78-year-old woman).

When I get new young patients who want a health checkup, I feel like it’s code for “I need a sexually transmitted infection screening.” And if it’s an older person, it means medication refills. This new 78-year-old woman caught me by surprise. She wanted to get tested because she had a lot of sex for someone her age, she said. She stated that fact proudly a few times.

7. The nurse came in and did the Pap smear for me while I was standing up.

Don’t you just  love when patients call you “nurse” after you introduce yourself as a doctor? I’ve actually corrected someone who continued to call me “nurse” during a visit.

For this encounter, the patient was a same-day visit complaining of dysuria. I had asked if she wanted to self-swab and she said no. I then offered to give her a few minutes to change before I came back to swab her. She said, “Don’t leave,” and dropped her pants and sat on the exam table quickly. The exam table got stuck and I was unable to flatten it. I figured I’m just doing a vaginal swab, so she can just sit up. No big deal, right? I guess she didn’t like that, because she complained how the “nurse” did her Pap smear for her while she was standing up. If only I was that talented that I can do a Pap smear while a patient is standing! The sad part was, she didn’t realize I was the physician even after I introduced myself and wore my lab coat embroidered with my name.

Patients say funny things, especially once you’ve built trust with them. It definitely brightens your day and makes for great stories to share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Note: This is a moderated forum. By clicking on the "Submit Comment" button below, you agree to abide by the NEJM Journal Watch Terms of Use.

Our physician bloggers cannot respond to requests for personal medical advice, and recommend patients discuss health issues with their individual physicians.

Resident Bloggers

2021-2022 Chief Resident Panel

Abdullah Al-abcha, MD
Mikita Arora, MD
Madiha Khan, DO
Khalid A. Shalaby, MBBCh
Brandon Temte, DO

Resident chiefs in hospital, internal, and family medicine

Learn more about Insights on Residency Training.