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A Test Of Patients And Patience

, , , , , , , | Healthy | March 30, 2022

I am a medical assistant. The clinic I work in, like most clinics, has a specific area for patients who are symptomatic for a certain respiratory illness. They literally are supposed to enter through a side door and sit in a separate waiting room entirely, and this waiting room is connected to two conveniently semi-isolated exam rooms that are only used for sick patients.

There is a screening desk at the entrance to the main clinic where the patient or other guests are asked if they have symptoms, are a close contact, or are diagnosed with said illness. Then, the PSRs confirm again that the person checking in doesn’t have symptoms. Anyone who is symptomatic is directed to enter through the side door.

Cue this patient. She comes in for what should be a follow-up appointment, but instead, she wants to talk about her ear infection for the last week and her migraines for the last four days. During my intake, she mentions that she thinks the migraines are from allergies, which I note, but still, it’s nothing suspicious. Then, she coughs a deep, phlegmy cough. Okay, she smokes quite a bit, so I’m hoping it’s just a smoker’s cough which she does have documented in her chart. I take her vitals, and her heart rate and blood pressure are abnormal, which I consider to likely be related to the headaches. I ask her if she’s feeling symptomatic, to which she replies nonchalantly, “I am feeling a little under the weather.”

Crap.

I leave the room, my intake done, and relay this mishmash of vague symptoms to the doctor and suggest we test for the illness. She agrees but seems unsure at first, so I obtain the necessary swabs for a rapid and a send-out test while she dons personal protective equipment and talks to [Patient] about her concerns. When she is done I go back in, now garbed in a disposable gown, mask, face shield, and gloves, but wondering what’s the point since I was already exposed for over five minutes? I collect the samples, leave the room, and then go and start the rapid test. The test is supposed to be given a full ten minutes, but after four it is absolutely clear that it is positive.

I use our messaging service to tell the provider. She says she strongly anticipated this result after talking with [Patient], and then she discussed this with her. She prescribes [Patient] some medications to ease her symptoms and an antiviral specific to the illness, we wish her well, and she leaves.

Apparently, [Patient] told the doctor while they were first discussing her symptoms that she didn’t think she had the illness because she didn’t have a sore throat.

And thus ends my tale of why I will be using at-home tests frequently over the next two weeks until I either confirm the illness or I pass the timeframe in which I could expect to be sick.

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