The president question – “Who’s the current president?” – has been a standard one of basic neurology assessments for years, probably since the answer was Ulysses S. Grant. It’s routinely asked by doctors, nurses, EEG techs, medical students, and pretty much anyone else trying to figure out someone’s mental status.
When I first began doing this, the answer was “George Bush” (at that time there’d only been one president by that name, so clarification wasn’t needed). Back then people answered the question (right or wrong) and we moved on. I don’t recall ever getting a dirty look, political lecture, or eye roll as a response.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple anymore. As people have become increasingly polarized, it’s become seemingly impossible to get a response without a statement of support or anger. At best I get a straight answer. At worst I get a lecture on the “perils of a non-White society” (that was last week). Then they want my opinion, and years of practice have taught me to never discuss politics with patients, regardless of which side they’re on.
I don’t recall this being a problem until the late ‘90s, when the answer was “Clinton.” Occasionally I’d get a sarcastic comment referring to the Lewinsky affair, but that was about it.
Since then it’s gradually escalated, to where the question has become worthless. I don’t have time to hear a political diatribe from either side. This is a doctor appointment, not a debate club. The insistence by some that Trump won leaves me guessing if the person is stubborn or serious, and either way it shouldn’t be my job to figure that out. I take your appointment seriously, so the least you can do is the same.
So I’ve ditched the question for good. The current date, the location of my office, and other less controversial things will have to do. I’m here to take care of you, not have you try to pick a fight or make a political statement.
You’d think such a simple, time-honored, assessment question wouldn’t become such a problem. But
Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.