Asking “What Brings You in Today?” 50 Times Does Not Make Teamwork

Stacy Hurt, the patient advocate in digital health and beyond, shares her frustration as a caregiver for her son, Emmett, in her experience with his medical visits. Please read her story. (This story originally appeared on her blog, republished here with permission from the author. See other stories of Stacy and Emmett on her website: https://stacyhurt.net/)

Whoever is teaching the med students to ask this, stop. Just stop. Wait, no. Don’t stop. It’s a great question.


I’m going to be honest with you: I thought we were losing him.

Upon initial intake with the triage nurse, it started:
“What brings you in today?”

A nurse came over with a computer screen on wheels. Asked us again:
“What brings you in today?”

I thought to myself, “OK. A third inquiry. And someone else in between. All asking the monotonous,
“What brings you in today?”

It. Was. Annoying. We were worked up for suspected appendicitis, sent up to the surgery observation floor for a deluxe overnight stay (TIC) with 3 bags of fluids, which did Emmett a world of good, and sent home. I thought we were in the clear. Low-grade fever, crying nonstop, obvious pain in the abdominal area, a limp, not wanting to bear weight. Being the healthcare ninja I am, I went to “Dr. Google” and found a condition called transient synovitis (inflammation of connective tissue in joints).

I bargained with him,

Back we went to the ER. Back to intake.
“What brings you in today?”
I glared at Drew who assuaged me; “Be calm.”

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The whole episode was peculiar, yet diagnostically benign, and we were very fortunate. You’ll be glad to know that the orthopod(a short-term slang to describe an orthopaedist or orthopaedic surgeon) didn’t ask us what brought us in today.

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