I was directed by my busy Consultant to take a medical history. So I walked over to this elderly gentleman to find out what had happened to bring him to hospital. He barely answered my questions, choosing instead to tell me all about his wife.
I felt my impatience rising. “The Consultant will get called into something else”, I began to worry. “I need to present this case back to her! Why wouldn’t he just answer my questions?”
As my frustration started boiling over I realised I was treating my patient as “liver metastasis on Bed 3”. I had no clinical responsibilities as a medical student and thus could make the time to listen to what was actually bothering him. Turned out his wife, suffering from advanced MS was home alone. He did not care much about himself.
In all the rush to ensure I was ticking boxes to prove I am correctly completing my course I had forgotten something I thought I couldn’t possibly forget: every patient has a story. And the art of Medicine is to apply our training in that context.