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woman overhearing people talking behind her

Whispers In the Hallway

I was recently at a Dermatology appt to get my skin checked, as any patient with IBD should do every year.

Overhearing a doctor in the hallway

Something happened that I wasn’t sure what to do. I was waiting in one of the rooms and I overheard my doctor and my nurse loudly speaking about me. It wasn’t just a passing conversation. She went into depth about some of the infections that I had previously had in different organs.

I felt uncomfortable, knowing that the patient they were loudly talking about was me. Were they saying negative things about me? No. Were they talking about my personal medication history? Yes. And I had no idea what to say when they both entered the room after I had heard every word they had just discussed loud and clear. Were they violating HIPAA? Not necessarily. But for some reason, I was embarrassed. They had talked about quite a few of my medical complications and history for a period of time, and at great length.

Feeling understood as a patient

At that time, I had decided to keep hush, because the things I heard them talking about actually made me feel more understood as a patient. I knew, from hearing them communicate with one another, that they truly understood my medical history and both had remembered me very well from previous appointments.

I’ve heard mean comments from doctors before

But over the past few weeks, I can’t help but think more about it. What would I have done if they were speaking negatively about me? It’s happened to me before at specialists. The whispers and even some mean comments. Yet, I never confronted them. I simply thought, “I’m just here to get checked out and go home, not to make anybody mad or uncomfortable.”

What if they had gone through my medical history and gotten part of it wrong? There was a time in the past where my primary physician had a med student along with him for the day and before entering the room, I heard him tell the student “She has ulcerative colitis”. I have Crohn’s Disease. While it’s not a huge deal, it can make a very big difference in lab values you look at, what organs you may want to have imaging done to, and what to look for next. While this wasn’t my GI or another specialist, I wanted to make sure both knew I was attentive and wanted to be vocal. Because to me, it’s a big deal.

At what point do you say something? Has this happened to you? What have you done, if you have experienced this?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Julie Marie Palumbo moderator
    5 months ago

    Thank you for sharing!
    I actually had a similar experience when my doctor’s office moved to a brand new building that was built for the hospital. I overheard him speaking to the nurse about me and my condition (I was seeing an ENT because I had MRSA in my nose–another Crohn’s-related side effect that is for another day!) and he was incorrect about the medication I was taking.
    When he and the nurse came in, I said “I heard you talking out there and actually…” and I corrected him on what I was taking.
    He thanked me for telling him and looked at the nurse and said, “ok now we know how sound travels around here and will be mindful of that for other patients”.
    I don’t know if I would had spoken up if he was not correct, but I am glad I had an excuse to make them aware of the fact patients can hear. Perhaps next time you can just say it is a heads up for patients in the future who might be more sensitive to that information being spoken loudly, rather than admitting it bothered you if you don’t want to make them uncomfortable.
    And honestly, you’re your own advocate so speak up whenever you don’t feel comfortable about something! It will be better for you and other patients going forward 🙂

    –Julie (Team Member)

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    5 months ago

    I’m sorry you had to go through that. I would feel embarrassed too.

    I haven’t experienced this personally, and I’m not sure how I would react if it did.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

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