"Oh, don't worry about making mistakes," said the attending. "It's not like any of the clinic patients would ever be savvy enough to figure it out. You think someone who's here illegally and doesn't even speak English is going to find a lawyer and sue us?"
Ah, yes. The reason it's okay to make mistakes is because the clinic patients probably won't sue us. Unquestionably the right way to think about our job. Patients who can afford lawyers? Be careful. Patients who can't? Eh, what's the difference, who cares if you get the diagnosis right, maybe we should let the surgeons experiment on them too, while we're at it.
I seriously think I'm going to tell my friends to pretend they're lawyers whenever they go to the doctor. You tell a doctor you're a lawyer, and maybe they won't just pick the sterile instrument off the floor if they accidentally drop it. Maybe they'll get a new one, a clean one, one that won't cause an infection. Maybe they'll double-check the prescription. Maybe they'll order the right tests. Maybe they won't. But at least they'll think twice.
I had a patient come in to clinic today complaining of depression. I think. She brought her boyfriend to be her translator. But that makes it difficult to be sure the boyfriend isn't a contributing factor. How do you ask "does your boyfriend abuse you?" when the boyfriend is the translator? I asked him to leave the room, and called the translator phone instead. He seemed insulted. He probably had a right to be. She gave no indication he's abusing her. I had no reason to suspect. But why have the doubt? The translator today was not putting 100% into the job. She was probably watching TV or something while translating. Even my terrible Spanish was enough to know she wasn't quite right. I don't know where they find the translators, who these people are. It's a work-from-home job, I'm sure it doesn't pay that well, I feel like these people have two or three phone lines and switch off between whatever rings. They do some translating, and then when we're done, they're also the phone psychics and on the sex hotlines. Same people, no doubt. Medical translation and phone sex. Heck, there's probably about the same amount of talk about genitalia on each of those lines. Although we may get a little more graphic.