“Not Yet” My Least Favorite Symptom

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few weeks of my ER career, it’s that cough and cold season is officially here.  With cough and cold season comes one of my most dreaded pet peeves.  Along with kids hacking in my face, demands for unnecessarily extended work excuses and the idea that the common cold constitutes as a medical emergency comes the symptom “Not yet”.

Some people assume every ailment know to man is about to befall them when they get sick.  When taking a health history for a patient with an upper respiratory infection, for example, I may ask a patient if they have experienced a symptom such as vomiting.  Then, in a tiny, whiny voice, the patient eeks out “Not yet”.  Why do you assume you are going to start vomiting?  What’s with the glass half-empty attitude?

I hate the “not yet” answer.  Yes, it’s true, you might get worse before you get better.  Body aches, pukes and crusty eyes may be just around the corner, but can’t you be a little more positive.  I don’t like dealing with what I call “No” people, people whose default response is in the negative.  I understand it isn’t easy to be sick, but unless you’re terminally ill, check your attitude.  Buck up.

To keep annoyance out of my workplace, I have decided to rephrase my questioning.  Rather than asking “Are you coughing?” and getting a pitiful “Not yet” in response, I’m going to start asking questions like “Have you stopped coughing?”…”Not ye..wait!..”.  I will end every patient visit with the question “Are you better?”.  “Not yet”. Now that’s the spirit.

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