What Your Doctor is Doing While You’re Sitting in the Waiting Room

Actors and actresses with accents that are part of their persona, such as those from England, Germany, or the American South, often have to work with voice coaches to keep from slipping into mainstream American English (whatever that might be). Even the accents of people who learned English as a second language eventually become homogenized if they live among the general population long enough. Apparently, it is very difficult to keep one’s accent with two exceptions: if the person lives in an enclave with others who have the same accent or . . .  the person is a doctor who has been in this country for more than two decades.

My 94-year-old father was recently hospitalized for cardiac problems and a touch of pneumonia. Before he was released, his doctor (who was not born in this country, did not go to medical school here, but has practiced here for more than twenty years) called me to explain the new medications he was prescribing. His accent was so thick, I had to make the guy repeat his instructions ad nauseum and spell the names of the drugs so I could get them right. I did fine until he started talking about hisspern. He kept saying that my dad already took hisspern, but that now he was supposed to cut that down to a quarter of a tablet. Hmm. Hisspern? That drug was not one my dad was taking. Then I remembered that he did take aspirin. So I asked, “Do you mean aspirin?” The doctor got testy, and said, “Hisspern! Hisspern!”

The nurse took the phone from him then, told me she’d give me a printout of the new drug regimen, and hung up. Later, when I checked the list, it was right there: aspririn — 81 mg.

This doctor often has his patients wait for several hours (even his almost-centenarians) before he sees them. Well, now I know why he makes them wait so long — he’s out taking voice lessons to make sure he remains un-understandable. (I won’t even mention his handwriting. Yikes.)

9 Responses to “What Your Doctor is Doing While You’re Sitting in the Waiting Room”

  1. Joylene Butler (@cluculzwriter) Says:

    Too funny.

    I recently went to the hairdressers and asked for some dark streaks on the top of my head to blend with my gray. She dyed my hair dark brown and put in blond streaks. I was so dumbfounded I paid. I should have noticed something strange when she brought out two small dishes of goop. I actually asked why 2? She said something I didn’t quite get.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Some friends tried to get me to color out my gray, but now I’m glad I didn’t give in. Yikes. What are you going to do? Just wait till it grows out?

      • Joylene Butler (@cluculzwriter) Says:

        I’ll start over. I’ll have a few streaks put in every month to hide the streak of white/gray on the top of my head until the line disappears. I must admit though, colouring my hair made it silky again, and the cut she gave was one of the best I’ve ever had. I guess the point is, there’s always something good in every bad situation.

  2. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    Yikes is right.

  3. Cheryl Haynes Says:

    Amen! They should know how to say Aspirin after that long.

  4. ~Sia McKye~ Says:

    This made me laugh–oh, not the subject matter but the way you handled it.

    I don’t usually have problems understanding accents. I’ve always been fascinated by beauty them, it’s kind of like music, you tune your ear to the cadence.

    But when it comes to medical things, the medical language is already a “foreign” language and you add an accent that can be frustrating. We do have so many foreign doctors practicing here in the US. The nurses generally know exactly what their doctors are saying. Ask for the nurse.

    Smart to get a drug print out too–even if your doctor speaks perfect, unaccented English.

  5. knightofswords Says:

    That doc needs one of those little translator gizmos tourists often carry around.


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