This horrible medical advice is brought to you by the people I’ve heard actually give this advice many, many times.
“Oh, that cough sounds awful. How long have you had it? More than three days? You should definitely go see a nurse practitioner about that. You should always see nurse practitioners, because they can do everything a doctor can do and they’re more willing to make appointments with you. So hurry up and call your doctor’s office or health center to see someone about your cough.”
This was almost always followed up, a few days later, by this: “Did you see the NP? Great. Oh, it’s probably just a cough but they gave you antibiotics just in case? Good. That’s important. You’re taking care of yourself.”
Okay, so that was the horrible medical advice, and now I’m going to
rant about explain why this is horrible medical advice, so I suppose I’m actually giving you good medical advice (note: see disclaimer at bottom of post), and I apologize for that but it infuriates me to no fucking end when people with no fucking clue about medicine give advice as if they have a fucking clue.
1: You have a cough. Do you have any other symptoms? Are you coughing up nasty shit? Are you unable to breathe because of the coughing? Do you hear weird rattling or fluidy sounds when you cough? If the answer to all of these questions is no, you probably have…A COLD. Don’t go to the doctor for a fucking cold unless your immune system is horrible or you’ve developed some sort of infection. If your other symptoms are sneezing and a runny nose, then it’s definitely a cold and you’re wasting your doctor’s time. Your doctor could be spending that time doing something important, like doing necessary check-ups with someone with a chronic illness or giving me migraine medication.
2: Nurse practitioners can’t do everything a doctor does. In fact, that’s exactly why they are “more willing” to see you. It’s not that they’re more willing, it’s that everyone fucking knows that when you go to the doctor you should go to the doctor. (No, not The Doctor, though I’m sure he could help if you needed it.) So they have more time because people don’t want to book their time as much. Nurse practitioners can do many things and they’re a valuable asset to most doctors’ offices, but a lot of the time, if there’s anything complicated or not very, very basic, they actually just call the doctor in for a consult. So then if you go in with a cough you’re wasting the NP’s time by being there with a cough and the doctor’s time if the NP thinks it might be something. I do love NPs. Don’t get me wrong. But they don’t go through four years of med school and then 3-8 years of residency to learn to do what they’re doing.
3: Health centers. I’m referring here to college health centers, where usually your only option is an NP and one that is barely qualified for the job, otherwise they would be working at a hospital or doctor’s office. College health centers are bullshit. If you’re in college and can possibly find a real doctor to go to, do it.
4: Antibiotics for a cough is the dumbest fucking thing ever. If you follow this advice and your doctor or NP prescribes you antibiotics “just in case it’s not just a cold,” find a different doctor or NP. You know those super-bacteria that are resistant to tons of antibiotics that everyone is afraid of? It’s shit like this that creates those bacteria. If you get antibiotics every fucking time you have a cough, you’re going to develop some fucking awesome bacteria that will kick most antibiotics’ asses and probably eventually end up in the ER because you got a damn papercut and it got infected by the stupid bacteria that you grew and nothing will treat it. You’re not taking care of yourself at all.
5: If someone gives you medical advice, ask them where they learned whatever advice they’re giving you. Things like “Oh, I read it in a magazine” or “They actually did a study” are not valid responses. (Also, if anyone tells you that chicken soup actually has medical benefits, tell them to shut the fuck up. All it will do is hydrate you a little and get you some nutrients, and even that only happens if it’s the good, home-made kind with lots of vegetables and no chemicals.) If the person is a medical professional or says something like “my doctor told me this” or “my boyfriend is a medical student and complains about patients who do this all the time because they’re essentially killing everyone” then their advice might be worth at least thinking about. If you’re not sure, call your doctor and ask if you should come in. Chances are, if you call your doctor and say “I’ve had this cough for a few days and someone recommended I make an appointment, do you think I should?” your doctor will probably tell you “No fucking way.” Well, something like that. If it’s something you wouldn’t normally go to the doctor about, make that “should I make an appointment” call before the “I’d like to schedule an appointment, please” call. You’ll save a lot of time and possibly also money and lives.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional; just a person who is surrounded by people who are medical professionals or are very close to being medical professionals. This advice reflects things they have told me but is not actually official medical advice. Thank you.
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