He had been coughing for several days, a guest explained, adding that he probably needed a Z-pak. When a patient suggests he needs an antibiotic, a doctor feels one of two emotions.
(1) Pleasure because this guarantees an easy visit. Give the antibiotic, and the patient will make it clear that the doctor has done what a good doctor does. I doubt most of you realize the importance of your gratitude. No matter how you try to conceal it, if you’re disappointed, we feel bad.
(2) Depression. In an otherwise healthy person, the only common illness with a cough that antibiotics cure is bacterial pneumonia which is not common. All others are viral infections. These affect fifteen percent of everyone who consults a doctor, so they are no trivial matter.
Over the phone, I quizzed him about his symptoms and then explained that he was suffering a self-limited illness requiring only over-the-counter remedies. When he insisted that he needed a doctor, I directed him to a nearby urgent care clinic where he would get his antibiotic.
In his regular column “The Life of a Hotel Doctor”, Mike Oppenheim shares remarkable stories around visiting hotel guests as a doctor. When he began as a hotel doctor during the 1980s, only luxury hotels had a “house doctor,” usually a local practitioner who did it as a sideline. Nowadays, in a large city even the lowliest motel receives blandishments from a dozen individuals plus several agencies that send moonlighting doctors if they can find one.