Category Archives: Nursing

When Nurses (Try to) Diagnose

This week, my left foot and ankle swelled up. Naturally, I took a picture with my camera phone, which I do anytime I experience any observable physical symptoms. Hey, I like to document things! Why the eff else do you think I like blogging?!

I was showing a nurse I work with a picture I took of my swollen foot with my iPhone. To the top of my foot was a noticeably large red bump, which was quite evident in the picture.

Nurse: Oh wow, that’s a DVT! (i.e. “Deep Vein Thrombosis” or a blood clot occurring in the “deep veins” of the lower extremities)

Me: It’s not a DVT…

Nurse: No, that looks like a classic DVT!

Me: It’s not a DVT. (OK, sure I have two of the classic DVT symtoms… Foot pain and edema, but those symptoms could be many, many things. NOT A DVT!)

Nurse: Well, it could be a DVT. It could be one that formed in the foot. Rare, but it could happen.

Me: It’s not a DVT. DVT is “deep vein,” not superficial. It can’t occur in the foot. Why are you trying to diagnose me?! It’s quite obviously a running injury!

Excuse me, nurse… Do you have an “MD” behind your name? No? OK, then stop trying to diagnose me via iPhone picture!

There are plenty of times I’ve seen ailments in patients and known exactly what they are. Oh ya, that’s a stroke! Definitely pulmonary embolism. Classic atelectasis!

I get texts all the time from friends listing off their symptoms. 100% of the time, I’m not sure what their deal is. Friend says she has heartburn… Well, ok, that could be a million and one things from dehydration to peptic ulcer. Or, you know, it could be a symptom of first trimester pregnancy… Just sayin’!

But you can bet your bottom dollar I don’t try to diagnose them. And most of the time I tell them to go see a physician or a nurse practitioner who can properly diagnose. Because I am neither of those things… Yet.

My scope of practice is that of a nurse. I don’t try to play doctor, and I’m certainly not amused when someone else with the same credentials as I tries to diagnose me. #GTFO!

I believe medical students are taught something along the lines of “when you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras.” Meaning, consider the most common diagnosis FIRST. (Duh.) In my case, I’m a healthy young woman who runs long distances, has no history of heart disease, and has not recently embarked on any long duration flights (which can cause blood clot formation. That’s why they encourage you to get up out of your seat on long flights, people!).

On Wednesday, I saw a doctor who, after thorough examination, diagnosed me with a running-related ankle injury.

And low-and-behold, the physiotherapy he referred me for seems to be working quite well.

So, definitely not a DVT.

End of story.

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