Be Prepared with “P-Q-R-S-T”

You have a nagging pain in your abdomen. Time to call the doctor. But before you pick up the phone, take a few minutes to organize the facts. The better the doctor understands your problem, the quicker the right treatment can begin. So what does the doctor need to know?

For years, doctors and nurses have used a mnemonic device to guide them in obtaining a medical history. You can use this same mnemonic device to get your thoughts together for your call. Think “P-Q-R-S-T”.  Here is how it works:

P stands for provoking factors: What brought on the symptoms? What were you doing when it started?

Q stands for quality. Is the pain stabbing, burning, sharp? Is it a gnawing feeling?

R is for radiation. Does the pain go anywhere or does it just stay in one place?

S stands for severity/symptoms. How bad is it? Are there any other symptoms associated with it?

T is for timing/triggers. When did it come on? Is it continuous or intermittent? What makes it worse?

“P-Q-R-S-T” leaves out two important additional bits of information. You need to add “location” and “relieving factors”. Put that all together and you are ready for that call. Here goes…..

“Hi, Dr. Martin. I have this burning (quality) pain in the upper left side (location) of my abdomen. It started a couple of days (timing) ago after I ate pizza (provoking factor). I took some Maalox and it felt a little better (relieving factor). But I’m getting worried because yesterday I threw up and there was some blood (associated symptom). The pain gets pretty severe at times (severity). So much so, that I almost double over with the pain. Sometimes the pain goes across my abdomen (radiation). What do you think I should do?”

Those few minutes you took to write down a few facts about your problem before you made that call can make all the difference. You know what to say and how to say it. Now the ball is in your doctor’s court. You did your job and you did it well!

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