10 Awkward Patient-Doctor Moments

APRIL 05, 2016
Ryan Gray, MD
When you become a doctor, it’s no secret that you will have to deal with people all day long. And, in the course of these many human interactions (sometimes under stressful circumstances), there are bound to be some awkward, uncomfortable and painfully silent moments. 
Here’s a list of the top 10 awkward patient-doctor moments:
1. Drawing a blank on an easy question. Maybe your mind is somewhere else, maybe you were on call and didn’t get much sleep or maybe you simply can’t remember the answer—but whatever the reason, drawing a blank in front of a patient is awkward (especially on an easy, routine question) and sure to result in a couple moments of uncomfortable silence.
2. Calling a patient by the wrong name. Calling a patient by the wrong name is bad enough, but it becomes really awkward if the patient says something like, “Are you sure you are giving me the right medication?” or “Are you sure you are in the right room?” This one mistake may make them question everything during the visit!
3. Mispronouncing a patient’s name. The level of awkwardness here depends largely on how bad you butcher the name and whether the patient is used to it. Either way, the patient will have to correct you, which can be somewhat uncomfortable. This is why I will never try to pronounce a name I don’t know – I’ll ask them to pronounce it for me!
4. Flatulence (enough said). I could get really graphic on this one, but for your sake, I won’t. Instead, I will simply say that when patients have unintentional “emissions” of any kind during exams, it can cause a bit of embarrassment for both parties.
5. When a patient hits on you. Whether it is borderline sexual harassment by a senior citizen, an inappropriate comment about your appearance or an invitation to dinner, this can cause extreme weirdness that can extend long into the doctor-patient relationship.

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