Dr. Cranquis made a comment about presenting a patient to various specialties. I briefly touched on this subject in Need-to-know Basis but I think it is worth revisiting in full.
Every doctor would like a summary of information, but your delivery of it cannot be a one-size-fits-all package. A good case presentation requires delivering the information that is pertinent to the specialty and “selling” or driving the attending to the diagnosis you have in mind. Here are some quick pointers that I go by.
Identifier: A good presentation begins with a short summary of who the patient is. This includes things like age, gender, ethnicity, and functional status (independent, bed bound, institutionalized etc.). Other pertinent points included here may be if the patient has been generally healthy or has multiple co-morbidities. Finally, if a patient comes in with a condition that is associated with risk factors, you can list them here if they apply.
“This is a 56 year old independent caucasian man with a history of hypertension, dyslipidemia, smoking, and obesity who presents with shortness of breath on exertion and retrosternal pain.”
Beyond this basic structure, a hospital specialist will require additional information along with the focused problem when you present the case. An obstetrician will want to have the patient’s gravida status, blood type, and screening status up front; a neurologist will want to also know the handedness of a patient and the baseline neurological status; a surgeon just wants to know what the problem was and the diagnosis. The clinical years become an exercise in learning these differences.
This is of course all well and good when you are presenting to your attending. However, once you need to consult someone, be it the specialist or the ER, keeping the presentations clear and succinct becomes key. No one has time to listen to a fifteen minute presentation over the phone.
The first step is to make your intentions clear. This usually happens either before you present your patient or once you have given them an idea of who they are dealing with.
“This is a 40 year old man previously healthy man with no past psychiatric illness, currently experiencing significant personal and financial stressors who was found by police after ingesting unknown quantity of tylenols within the last four hours. He is currently stable and being treated per protocol and we are waiting for the next liver panel. We are consulting psychiatry ahead of time for suicidal ideation and risk assessment.”
The next step, following what has already been described above is to discuss the pertinent points of the history. This includes the identifiers but also the patient’s condition and what has been done or course in hospital that is relevant to the case.
Sometimes that little snippet of information is enough. Sometimes they may require more so always keep everything within arms reach and present information as they require them. Maybe they do have time to listen to a full presentation, perhaps only a few snippets.
If you can keep your audience and the issues in mind - identifier, specialty tailored points, reason for consultation, pertinent history and current plans of action - you will be able to deliver a well formed presentation every time.
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