Education Informal-curriculum Lessons

The Value of Interruptions.

That interview didn’t go well at all. The patient wouldn’t let me get a word in! That little old lady just kept talking and talking and talking. It’s like she thought we had all the time in the world to talk about her children.”

“It was hard to interrupt, huh.”

“Yeah! It seemed like she really wanted to tell me about her kids. I didn’t want to be rude.”

“Of course it feels rude to interrupt people. We’re taught to wait our turn and listen when other people talk.”


“When you’re interviewing patients, though, it’s not a usual social conversation. Social skills are still important, but the context is different.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you routinely ask your friends if they’re in pain? Have you asked your medical school classmates if they’re passing gas? How about your parents? Do you know if they’re taking their medications as directed?


“Even though we might use our usual words and gestures in conversations with patients, we’re not having routine social interactions with them. You need to get as much accurate history from patients as possible. Accurate histories[1. “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis.”] lead to accurate diagnoses, which lead to proper treatment.”


“To be clear, you don’t want to be a jerk when interrupting patients. Practicing and learning the skill of interrupting, while you’re still a student, will serve you well in the future.”