Blog | Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tips for IM attendings, ask my favorite question

“What do you do for fun?”

That is my favorite question. And I use it with patients and learners.

With patients, it opens a window to the possibility of anhedonia. It also helps you understand who the patient is. Just asking the question often creates a sense that we care about the person who has the disease.

In the outpatient setting you can use the answer on each visit to gauge the patient's quality of life. If you have someone who regularly fishes, and then one day no longer goes fishing, you probably have a clue that something serious is wrong. If they have been fishing, the fact that you asked sends a clear message to the patient.

With learners, again it helps us understand our teammates. While I do not have data to prove it, having an attending physician who wants to know who you are helps team dynamics.

I ask the question, and then I have another important question on the inpatient service. After a learner has a day off, I try to ask them how their day went. What did they do? And I share my non-medical activities with the team.

While I love medicine, I also enjoy my exercise, golf, music, etc. I want the learners to see me as a well-rounded human being. They need to see that to keep their goals in perspective.

So try this question. What do you do for fun? Do your learners know? Do you know them?

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, MACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and the former Regional Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds regularly at the Birmingham VA and Huntsville Hospital. His current titles are Professor-Emeritus and Chair-Emeritus of the ACP Board of Regents. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.