Don’t Assume and Don’t Lie

A story about the pitfalls of making assumptions.

Overheard at triage the other day, between a maybe too-slick paramedic and a very elderly, very sharp female patient supposed — assumed — to be hard-of-hearing, demented or maybe a little of both.

Paramedic: . . . and her vital signs are stable, heart rate 83, BP 138/66. . .

Patient: Wait, wait a second!

Paramedic: What, dear?

Patient: How could you know my blood pressure? You didn’t even check it!

Paramedic: (covering) I, uh, estimated it checking your pulse.

Triage Nurse: [.  .  .]!

Patient: You did no such thing! I used to be a nurse, you know.

Oops. Is there a prize for boneheadedness? I think I was even more astonished and amazed by the second lie which, of course, only made things totally and incomprehensibly worse. The paramedic, needless to say was deeply (and deservedly so, I might add) embarrassed.


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  1. #1 by JennJilks on Wednesday 17 March 2010 - 0903

    Do you know who should be your biggest fans? Those least able to defend themselves (apparently!).
    This will become more the ‘norm’ as people learn to advocate for themselves in health care!

  2. #2 by Random Internet Person on Wednesday 17 March 2010 - 1017

    What the heck! What could the paramedic’s motivation possibly have been? Was he expected to have taken BP by that point, and was covering for not having done so?

  3. #3 by paedsnurse on Wednesday 17 March 2010 - 1550

    Ouch, busted! You gotta love the sharp and intact elderly patients. They really keep you on your toes.

  4. #4 by Art Doctor on Wednesday 17 March 2010 - 2224

    Where I volunteer in Geriatrics, the retired Nurses are the Gemini’s of patients—great stories, nice people— but they know the ins and outs of health care and will always point out your mistakes, or know how to get what they need. Good on them for it too!

  5. #5 by Christina on Thursday 18 March 2010 - 1543

    “And don’t call me Honey, Sonny.”

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