Legend: Humorous accounts of examinations performed on patients.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, March 2008]
EMBARRASSING MEDICAL EXAMS
1. A man comes into the ER and yells, ‘My wife’s going to have her baby in the cab!’ I grabbed my stuff, rushed out to the cab, lifted the lady’s dress, and began to take off her under-wear. Suddenly I noticed that there were several cabs — and I was in the wrong one.
Submitted by Dr. Mark MacDonald, San Francisco
2. At the beginning of my shift I placed a stethoscope on an elderly and slightly deaf female patient’s anterior chest wall. ‘Big breaths,’ I instructed. ‘Yes, they used to be,’ replied the patient.
Submitted by Dr. Richard Byrnes, Seattle, WA
3. One day I had to be the bearer of bad news when I told a Wife that her husband had died of a massive myocardial infarct. Not more than five minutes later, I heard her reporting to the rest of the family that he had died of a ‘massive internal fart.’
Submitted by Dr. Susan Steinberg
4. During a patient’s two week follow-up appointment with his cardiologist, he informed me, his doctor, that he was having trouble with one of his medications. ‘Which one?’ I asked. ‘The patch, the Nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and now I’m running out of places to put it!’ I had him quickly undress and discovered what I hoped I wouldn’t see. Yes, the man had over fifty patches on his body! Now, the instructions include removal of the old patch before applying a new one.
Submitted by Dr. Rebecca St. Clair, Norfolk , VA
5. While acquainting myself with a new elderly patient, I asked, ‘How long have you been bedridden?’ After a look of complete confusion she answered, ‘Why, not for about twenty years — when my husband was alive.’
Submitted by Dr. Steven Swanson, Corvallis, OR
6. I was performing rounds at the hospital one morning and while checking up on a woman I asked, ‘So how’s your breakfast this morning?’ ‘It’s very good, except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can’t seem to get used to the taste,’ the patient replied. I then asked to see the jelly and the woman produced a foil packet labeled ‘KY Jelly.’
Submitted by Dr. Leonard Kransdorf, Detroit , MI
7. A nurse was on duty in the Emergency Room when a young woman with purple hair styled into a punk rocker Mohawk, sporting a variety of tattoos, and wearing strange clothing, entered. It was quickly determined that the patient had acute appendicitis, so she was scheduled for immediate surgery. When she was completely disrobed on the operating table, the staff noticed that her pubic hair had been dyed green, and above it there was a tattoo that read, ‘Keep off the grass.’ Once the surgery was completed, the surgeon wrote a short note on the patient’s dressing, which said, ‘Sorry, had to mow the lawn.’
Submitted by RN no name
8. As a new, young MD doing his residency in OB, I was quite embarrassed when performing female pelvic exams. To cover my embarrassment I had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly. The middle-aged lady upon whom I was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassing me. I looked up from my work and sheepishly said, ‘I’m sorry. Was I tickling you?’ She replied, ‘No doctor, but the song you were whistling was, ‘I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener’.
Dr. wouldn’t submit his name
Origins: We’ve been running into versions of this list since 2002. As is common with such offerings, the number of entries fluctuates over time, as does the order of the items.
Other versions of the list include these entries:
Dr. Matthew Theodropolous, Worcester, MA A lady walked into a pharmacy and spoke to the pharmacist. She asked, “Do you have Viagra?” “Yes,” he answered. She asked, “Does it work?” “Yes,” he answered. “Can you get it over the counter?” she asked. “I can if I take two,” he answered.
I was performing a complete physical, including the visual acuity test. I placed the patient twenty feet from the chart and began, “Cover your right eye with your hand.” He read the 20/20 line perfectly. Now your left.” Again, a flawless read. Now both,” I requested. There was silence. He couldn’t even read the large E on the top line. I turned and discovered that he had done exactly what I had asked; he was standing there with both his eyes covered. I was laughing too hard to finish the exam.
Dr. Matthew Theodropolous, Worcester, MA
A lady walked into a pharmacy and spoke to the pharmacist. She asked, “Do you have Viagra?”
“Yes,” he answered.
She asked, “Does it work?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Can you get it over the counter?” she asked.
“I can if I take two,” he answered.
As to which are reliable accounts of actual incidents and which are not, it’s impossible to say. Medical lore is rife with such tales (always told as true, mind you), like the hoary offering about the irate patient who’d seen his doctor scribble “s.o.b.” on his chart and was halted in his ravings at his physician by that long-suffering soul’s pointing out that it stood for “short of breath.”
Some of the entries on this list are easy to dismiss as reworkings of well-traveled urban legends or jokes.
Entry #5 (bedridden old lady) is but a reworking of a joke that has been told numerous ways over a span of many decades.
Reporter: “To what do you attribute you old age?” 95-year-old-woman: “I’ve eaten moderately, I work hard, I do not drink or smoke and I keep good hours.” Reporter: “Have you ever been bedridden?” Old Woman: “Yes, sure I have, but don’t put that in the paper.”
Reporter: “To what do you attribute you old age?”
95-year-old-woman: “I’ve eaten moderately, I work hard, I do not drink or smoke and I keep good hours.”
Reporter: “Have you ever been bedridden?”
Old Woman: “Yes, sure I have, but don’t put that in the paper.”
Entry #2 (big breaths) is another old joke, one generally told in one of these two forms:
A medical practitioner was examining his patient who happened to be big-breasted but hard of hearing. He put his stethoscope to her chest and said, “Big breaths.” The woman replied, “Yes, they used to be bigger.” [Badhshah, 2004] The doctor examining a little-girl with his stethoscope said, “Big breaths.” “Yeth, and I’m only twelve.”
A medical practitioner was examining his patient who happened to be big-breasted but hard of hearing. He put his stethoscope to her chest and said, “Big breaths.”
The woman replied, “Yes, they used to be bigger.”
The doctor examining a little-girl with his stethoscope said, “Big breaths.”
“Yeth, and I’m only twelve.”
Entry #6 (eating of KY Jelly, a lubricant) seems to be a variation on a number of anecdotes about contraceptive gels mistaken for foodstuffs (e.g., the “Jelly Babied” tale in which a woman attempts to sue a pharmacy over her resulting pregnancy because she’d been eating on toast the contraceptive gel prescribed for her rather than applying it internally).
Other entries from the list are, at the very least, implausible.
because while a doctor hastily dispatched to a taxi to attend to someone about to give birth could make such a mistake, it’s unlikely the woman whose dress he lifted (and whose panties he was in the process of pulling down when he came to his senses) would have let a strange man get that far into the process without finding a way to object. The tale likely would not culminate with his realizing he was in the wrong cab but with his suddenly finding himself being viciously clubbed about the head by a woman’s handbag.
Entry #8 (whistling resident) also seems implausible, because it’s hard to imagine a resident’s being allowed to form the habit of whistling to himself while examining patients without any of those who oversaw his work disabusing him of the custom, and primarily because by the time a doctor is serving his residency (which means he has already weathered being both a medical student and an intern), very little should faze him, certainly not his having to perform routine pelvic examinations.
Entry #2 (wife describes husband’s cause of death as “massive internal fart”) is at least somewhat plausible, since people unused to medical terminology can all too easily mishear unfamiliar terms as something quite different from what they really are.
While Entry #4 (multi-patched patient) could happen (patients do indeed make such mistakes with medicines), it reminds us of this joke:
Two months later, the man calls in and asks to speak to the doctor. “So, how are things going?” asks the physician. “Has your sex life improved?” “How the heck should I know?” says the man. “I’m
An overweight man visits his doctor to complain about his lack of a sex life. The doctor swiftly concludes that it’s the man’s extra poundage that is interfering with his ability to perform, so he tells the man to walk five miles every day.
Two months later, the man calls in and asks to speak to the doctor. “So, how are things going?” asks the physician. “Has your sex life improved?”
“How the heck should I know?” says the man. “I’m
Barbara “the running of the bull” Mikkelson
Last updated: 11 April 2008