We must ask patients obvious questions

Four o’clock on a Friday afternoon is an anxiety-inducing time to be running behind in clinic as patients and staff both begin to show signs of wanting to leave. After finishing with a particularly complicated case involving chronic pain with multiple spinal and abdominal surgeries, I rushed into the room of the patient scheduled for 3 p.m. frazzled. The patient was an elderly man, seated with arms folded, looking sternly down a knobby nose at me. I couldn’t help feeling guilty as he stared at me as if I’d done something to unforgivably wrong him. Trying to appear less disconcerted than I was, I started taking a history for his complaint of back pain. He was extremely defensive to m...

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