New Girl, New Diagnosis (spoiler alert)

Medical uncertainty has once again appeared as the subject of a half hour comedy (does this count as dramedy now?). In a recent episode of New Girl, roommate Nick Miller deals with the anxiety of waiting for an ultrasound after his friend’s doctor discovers a lump on his thyroid. (As an aside, since we’re studying for the boards, was it a thyroglossal duct cyst? It moved with swallowing. Okay, enough medicine).

Like in a recent episode of Modern Family, neither patient nor friends react well. There are premature tears, bucket lists and some grim medical Googling, during which the roommates decide that Nick has thyroid cancer. Ultimately, Nick learns that he has a cyst instead, to the relief of all.

So what are the lessons here for medical students?

  1. First, patients may have symptoms and ignore them. Nick is young and ┬áin reasonably good health. He has no primary care provider. When he notices a bump on his neck that doesn’t bother him, he doesn’t dwell on it. It could be a combination of fear, awareness and/or access to care. And most of all, it happens in real life all the time.
  2. Second, Nick’s friends react with hysterics, and aren’t sure how to comfort their friend. When was the last time you responded to bad news in a similar way? It’s worthwhile to analyze how we react and understand our emotions’ effects on the listener.
  3. Third, Nick mentions that after the doctor said it’s not cancer, he “didn’t hear anything else.” But did the doctor say anything else? As we learned in our doctoring class at school, the moments right after delivering important news are often blank for a patient. He should be given time to process the information. Only then should subsequent instructions be given. Is this a nodule that needs follow-up? Does he need any thyroid function tests? And will he be able to find a primary care doctor?

We’re glad to see writers sprinkling these kinds of issues into light evening television but wish the discussion with Nick about preventive care could have gone a step further. Also, although we offer no medical advice on this blog, we do think that evening swim was ill-advised.

image via ign

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