It’s not just doctors who need to know how to take a history properly. After my little sister and I got home from her swimming lesson, we sat down to lunch.

Mom: Did you swim any laps?
Sister: No.
Mom: You didn’t swim laps? What were you doing all that time?
Sister: I don’t know.
Me (asking a more closed-ended question): Did you swim from one end of the pool to the other?
Sister: Oh, yes.
Mom: How many times did you do that?
Sister (rolling her eyes): Oh, thirty – no, fifty times!
Me (review-of-systems method here): Did you do front crawl?
Sister: Yes.
Me: How many times did you do front crawl from one end to the other?
Sister: Twice, but we did backstroke twice too.
Mom (deciding to try this herself): Just tell me exactly what you did from the time you got there.
Sister: Well, I put my bag in a locker, put my sandals in, got out my towel, and went into the pool. I put my towel down. The students were all in the shallow end, so I jumped in there. My hair got wet. The teacher said hi. She wasn’t surprised to see me. Two of the teachers looked familiar, but I forget their names. . . (Mom has obviously gotten herself trapped with a talkative historian, have to help out here – )
Me: What did the teacher tell you to do first?
Sister: We got barbells and swam to the other end.
Later: Mom: So did the teacher have anything to say about your breaststroke?
Sister: She didn’t complain about it! Me: Did she say anything at all?
Sister: Yeah, she said to glide longer from the kick.

It took fifteen minutes, but we finally got a pretty accurate history of the swimming lesson. I guess mothers need to attend Introduction to Clinical Medicine, too.

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