Friday, February 24, 2006


A nervous patient is a potential disaster, so I either play something on the radio or I carry on one of those trivial and pointless conversations with patients when I'm performing a minor procedure on them. It's just enough to distract the patient so that their brain won't go wandering around and freak out with apprehension.

Although most minor procedures are fairly simple, I do need to focus, so I don't put a lot of brainpower into my conversations. Most times the subject matter is of minimal depth, requiring nothing more than autopilot for my brain to keep the conversation going, allowing me to focus on the task at hand.

Patient: [Lying on the table with the right arm towards me] So once the cow is in the locks, we tilt them over onto their side and get the grinder to trim down their hoofs.

Me: [Busy removing a lump in the patient's arm] That's interesting. I never knew cow hooves had to be trimmed.

Patient: It's just like horse hooves.

Me: It doesn't hurt the cows?

Patient: No, not at all. It's like cutting your fingernail.

Me: So all cows undergo this hoof trimming?

Patient: Yup. We do it about once or twice a year.

Me: [Absorbed in my work] So what do cows do in the wild to trim their hooves?

I quickly realize what just came out of my mouth.
I pause, slightly embarrassed by my idiotic question.

Patient: [Without missing a beat] Oh, I don't know. I guess they rub their hooves on rocks or something.

Either the patient's brain was also on autopilot and didn't catch my stupid question, or it was courteously ignored. But either way, we went on with our little conversation and I promptly removed that lump several minutes later.

Cows in the wild? Sometimes I wonder how I got through medical school.