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Do Doctors Know When You Fake Your Symptoms? 50 Tips from Healthcare Workers

Updated on September 8, 2013

You Might Be Shocked to Learn How Nurses and Medical Assistants Really Feel

I spent several years in the healthcare field. I had a wide range of duties that included performing physical therapy on patients, scheduling appointments, and verifying health insurance benefits. I loved my job and all of my patients - but like every employee, I still had things that I secretly wished I could say and do during my shift. If you've ever wondered whether your nurse notices your unshaven legs or judges your responses to your medical questionnaire, you've come to the right place.

We work hard to take care of you, but we're still human. During a long shift with no break, behaving well doesn't always fall on the top of our list of things to do that day. Or the bottom. We still like you, though. Don't take it personally.

Note: The secrets in this article are more relevant for nurses and medical assistants who work in clinics and physician's offices, not hospitals or schools. Those medical professionals have their own set of secrets, I'm sure.

Be Honest With Your Nurse

1. We can tell if you're a smoker. We get that you may have to lie on your medical form to keep your insurance costs down or please a nagging spouse, but you're not fooling us.

2. Don't get naked unless we ask you to. I can't tell you how many times that I walked into a patient's room and discovered they had stripped down to their undies. Some patients even removed those.

3. Please stay home if you have a viral infection. We can't do anything for you, and you will spread your germs all over the waiting room.

4. Be honest about your symptoms. We can't help you if we don't really know what's wrong.

5. When the girl at the front desk offers to watch your screaming toddler, let her. She wouldn't have offered if she didn't want to. Most of us have kids, and we know that bringing them to your medical appointment is probably not the highlight of your day.

Be a Good Patient

6. If you find it hard to arrive on time for your appointments, please do not schedule them during the latest time slot of the day. We like to go home to our families. It sucks when we can't because the doctor we work for hates turning patients away and insists on waiting for you.

7. If you can't make your appointment, call us to reschedule. We won't be mad or lecture you. We'd rather know that you aren't coming so that we can work on other stuff or offer your time slot to another patient.

8. Yes, we notice when you don't shave your legs. Some of us care, some of us don't.

9. When we say that the earliest we can fit you in is at such-and-such time on such-and-such date, we are telling the truth. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. Please do not call and demand an earlier appointment. We care about you and know that you feel you deserve attention more than anybody else. Unfortunately, the thousands of other patients that we have feel the same way.

10. Don't lie about your health insurance benefits. If you know your card is expired, come clean. We'll be more likely to work out a payment plan with you.

We're Smart, But We Don't Remember Everything

11. Don't skip visits just because you're uninsured, and stay away from those stupid medical loans. You don't need something with an interest rate of like 300%. Most doctors offer discounted rates for patients without health insurance. This benefit isn't advertised, so call your doctor's office and talk to the receptionist about becoming a "cash patient".

12. Your doctor does not have your medical history memorized, and neither do we. Trust me, it would make all of our lives easier if we did. There were days when I saw more than 50 patients. I remembered some stuff, like which one had back spasms and which one had a rude boyfriend, but I don't remember when your last flu shot was. I will be happy to check if you ask, but please don't get mad when I don't automatically know the answer.

13. We can tell when you don't do the exercises that we send home with you. We give you those printouts for a reason, so do them. If you don't do them, don't blame us when your recovery takes forever. We can only do so much.

14. You don't always need medicine to get better. Many of us are well-versed in holistic remedies, so take our advice. Sometimes all you need to do is eat better, exercise, and sleep more. We're not lying when we say this.

15. If you want something, ask the nurse and not the doctor. You are more likely to get it that way.

Helpful Things for Patients

Make your life - and your healthcare provider's - easier by using these items. Record symptoms in your journal, keep track of medical records in a handy planner, and take your medication as prescribed with a helpful pill organizer.

Sometimes We Feel Bad for You

16. We know when the bruises come from your partner. We just don't say anything. And no, we're not judging you. Our hearts break every time it happens. We pretend we don't know so you can save face.

17. Please don't complain about how long you sat in the waiting room. It's your turn now, and we're ready to give you our full attention. Don't waste your appointment yelling at us for the delay.

18. If you're the type who has a million questions, please do not schedule your appointment before our lunch break. We are hungry and crabby. We'll still answer your questions, but you'll get more detailed responses if you come back after lunch.

19. Please bathe before your appointment. It's really hard to give you the attention you deserve when we're trying not to throw up during your examination.

20. If you feel your current treatment program isn't working, let us know. We'll be happy to adjust it. At the end of the day, you know your body better than we do.

Love and Healthcare Don't Mix

21. Your doctor is not as nice as you think he is. You should hear how he talks to us sometimes.

22. Do not flirt with your doctor. Yes, he may flirt back - but he's probably married and will never leave his wife for you. I've seen so many lovestruck patients over the years. I worked for one doctor who loved the ladies and frequently cheated on his wife. This lead to some awkward moments, especially after his wife got a job at the medical office.

23. We are not allowed to date you. Some of you are super hot, so it sucks, but it's the whole patient/caregiver ethics thing. We could loser our job.

24. Please don't sexually harass us. Now is not the time to grope us inappropriately. We will tell the doctor if you keep it up, and he will not hesitate to ban you from his practice. And yes, we will write it in your file and your new medical staff will know exactly what happened. So will your insurance company if they request copies of your records.

25. Don't exaggerate your symptoms just to get disability. We know when you're faking. If you actually have the condition and are nice to us, we'll probably send in a good report when Social Security contacts us. We also keep this in mind for car insurance claims.

Let Us Know if You're Broke

26. When you have a sudden onset of anxiety attacks that only Xanax will fix, we're on to you. Same goes for acute pain that can only be treated with certain painkillers. We can tell if your pain is really 10 on a scale of 10, so don't attempt to fool us.

27. Don't skip your meds just because you can't afford them. We usually have a whole closet of free samples from the pharmaceutical companies. Physical therapists also have samples of lotion and pain relief gels.

28. Some shady doctors will agree to commit insurance fraud. Just say no. You can bet that when your insurance company finds out, YOU'LL be the one in trouble. It's not our fault that there was a small error at the front desk. Get what I'm saying?

29. Don't write bad checks. If you can't afford to pay for your appointment, talk to us about payment plans or charitable services. We might also accept postdated checks. Every office is different. Just ask us.

30. If you're wondering whether you should bring in that plate of extra brownies, the answer is yes. We love presents, especially when they're edible. We don't always get time to take a break.

What do you think about these healthcare secrets so far?

Are you shocked by any of the things that nurses and medical assistants do?

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Put the Gauze Back, Please

31. Please do not argue with us about your physical therapy session. Sometimes your pain is "referral pain". That means it comes from a different part of your body. For example, neck pain may radiate into your fingers. When that happens, we may perform therapy on your upper body instead of your hands. Trust us. We've got this under control.

32. Don't play with any of the machines in the room, even if they aren't hooked up to your body.

33. Please don't steal supplies from the examination room. Why do you need plastic gloves anyway? Nevermind. We don't want to know.

34. Sit still while we're giving you a shot or performing therapy on you. It will be much easier on both of us.

35. Don't yell on your cell phone. It makes everybody uncomfortable. It's also hard to do your checkup while you're screaming at your mom or girlfriend.

This is Not Snack Time

36. If we give you printouts, DVDs, or brochures, we want you to actually read them. Please do so at your earliest convenience.

37. Some patients exaggerate their pain, but some patients hide it. Please don't try to "man up" and mask your symptoms. We are here to help.

38. Please do not eat while we are examining you.

39. Yes, we gossip about most of our patients. It doesn't mean we don't like you. Just remember that if you tell one medical assistant, most of the office staff will know.

40. We know when you don't like us. Trust us, you aren't always our favorite either. We're sorry that the other nurse called in, but let's just suck it up and get through this together, okay?

We're Busy

41. We're not intentionally ignoring your calls or taking our time calling you back. The phone rings nonstop. All. Day. Long. When it's not ringing, we are often on hold with your insurance company. Sometimes they put us on hold for more than an hour. My personal record was 2 hours and 14 minutes.

42. We love hearing about your life. Bring pictures of your kids or tell us about your hobbies. It's fun to know who we're treating.

43. We can tell when your significant other is a controlling jerk. We are not fooled by his charming smile as he stares us down from the waiting room.

44. Some patients call with a new question every day. In fact, some of them call multiple times a day. If you're a hypochondriac, feel free to write a very long list of your concerns and bring them to your next appointment so that we can put your mind at ease. Don't ever be scared to talk to us about things that worry you. We are always happy to help address any concerns.

45. Don't scream our name. Ever. If we are with another patient, wait your turn. We will come back and check on you. Sometimes we have 4 or 5 patients at a time. One day, the other girl called in and I had 10.

Mind Your Manners

46. Never tell us how hard the doctor works, especially when he just spent 3 minutes in the room with you and bolted. Here's a little secret: Some nurses and medical assistants do more for you than the doctor does. This is not true for all patients, but it's true for many of you. We do all the work, and the doctor gets all the credit. You're welcome.

47. When you ask us a question, trust our answer. You don't have to ask the doctor the exact same thing when he walks in. We both have plenty of formal education and hands-on training.

48. Please don't come to your appointment drunk or high. We don't want to smell your extracurricular activities on your breath or clothes. We also find it very difficult to communicate with patients who aren't sober.

49. Don't boss us around. We are not your maid. Questions like, "Can I please have a cup of water?" are fine. Commands like, "Hey! Nurse! Get me some water!" are not. Your mom should have taught you this as a toddler.

50. We don't charge for medical reports and copies just to get your money. Some of these things are actually very time-consuming. I worked on getting files ready for car accident cases, and they took all week sometimes. I also had patients to take care of in between generating reports, but you get the idea.

Does a Career in the Medical Field Sound Fun After Reading This Article? - This lovely lady has the scoop on surviving nursing school

Do You Work in the Healthcare Field? - Did I forget any big secrets or important things that patients should know?

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    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 

      5 years ago from Europe

      How about "please think about what examinations are likely and dress appropriately", this does depend on what you're doing, but if you need to look at a mole on someone's back, then them having to take a shirt off is easier and more dignified than taking a dress off.

    • writerkath profile image


      5 years ago

      I've never worked in the healthcare field, and it's just one of those things I've never had a hankering for. But, I have to say I enjoyed reading these! I loved the one about not taking things from the supply room - latex gloves. "Why do you need them anyway? Nevermind...we don't want to know." Ha ha ha ha ha! Love it!

    • ThisisMissyMiss profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from The Fabulous Midwest

      @Klaartje Loose: What do you say when you talk about it? I'm not in the healthcare field anymore, but I figure I should ask in case I return to it one day. My supervisor would not let us discuss certain things unless the patient brought them up first. I definitely see your point about how that makes it worse, though.

    • Klaartje Loose profile image

      Klaartje Loose 

      5 years ago

      Yes but I work as a maternity nurse and assist a family in their own home the first week after birth.Besides that, I gave a coaching and counseling practise at home. Different situation from working in a clinic..Oh and I have to disagree on point 16: I will talk about it, but won't judge. It's just that ignoring domestic violence makes it worse.

    • mommytalks lm profile image

      mommytalks lm 

      5 years ago

      LOL - I laughed, I cried, I got grossed out!!! When I worked in a podiatrist's office, there was a patient who came in for his once a month appointment high. Every. Single. Time. We were like, "Dude! Do you think we can't smell that?!" I still remember his name almost 25 years later!!

    • Oneshotvariety LM profile image

      Oneshotvariety LM 

      5 years ago

      The people in healthcare are quite amazing. They have a wonderful job helping and making a difference in many lives. This is a very inspiring lens! Well done!

    • Oneshotvariety LM profile image

      Oneshotvariety LM 

      5 years ago

      The people in healthcare are quite amazing. They have a wonderful job helping and making a difference in many lives. This is a very inspiring lens! Well done!

    • ThisisMissyMiss profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from The Fabulous Midwest

      @webmavern: Thanks, Webmavern! I think what the patients who don't show up fail to realize is that healthcare professionals can't see everybody at once, so people who could have used that time slot are missing out on the chance to be treated. It's not fair to them. Emergencies come up and sometimes people just plain forget about appointments, which is understandable, but many of the folks who cancel at the last minute or don't even bother to call are repeat offenders. Some doctors have started charging for missed appointments, and I totally understand why they have to do that.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I don't work in the healthcare field but I have great respect for those who do. Patients should remember that the people caring for them are human too and have their own problems and bad days. I also think that people who don't turn up for or don't cancel appointments as early as possible are very rude and time wasters. Ok, I've finished moaning for now! Great lens and keep up the good work!


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