Physical Exam

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Physical Exam - Stethoscope.jpg

"Physicals! How much have you ever learned from a physical?"

"Not too much," I said, realizing that this was true.

"Of course not."

- An exchange between Roy Basch and the Fat Man, Chapter 12, Samuel Shem's The House of God

The physical exam (1 April 500 - 14 August 2016) was an ancient method of diagnosing illness and essentially was a stall tactic until Radiology as a field came to be. The physical exam has rarely been used over the past decade. Though many medical providers are spotted wearing a stethoscope, which is a tool often used during the physical exam, most people actually wear it for both decorative purposes and as a tribute.

The Physical Exam

The Marx Brothers, Will & Grace, Scrubs, and Gomerblog have documented some aspects of the physical exam for posterity:

  1. The Routine Physical Exam, Part 1
  2. The Routine Physical Exam, Part 2
  3. The Routine Physical Exam, Part 3
  4. The Abdominal Exam
  5. The Eye Exam
  6. The Heart Exam
  7. The Lung Exam
  8. The Nervous System

Quotes on the Physical Exam

  • "Sometimes there's a physical exam finding so perfect I wish there was a me student in my coat pocket" - Dr. Amy G. Dala
  • "Sometimes my attending gets so excited by history or exam findings I think, This person needs to get a life." - Anonymous Medical Student

Death of the Physical Exam

On August 14, 2016, the physical exam passed away after its decade-long battle with obscurity.[1] This was a relief to many health care providers - nurses and doctors alike - who wanted to see the physical exam stop its needless suffering and pass away in peace, which it did; one week prior to its passing, the physical exam was made DNR. On September 14, 2016, the American Medical Association held a large funeral service for the physical exam. A moving tribute was planned in which multiple health care providers would demonstrate aspects of the physical exam, however, no one could remember any maneuvers. Internists and neurologists were particularly moved by the ceremony.

Brief Resurrection of the Physical Exam

On August 11, 2017, hospitalist Miguel Ruiz briefly brought the physical exam back to life by absolutely crushing the lung exam that morning. Word spread throughout the country like wildfire and experts predict a brief surge in pulmonary examinations and fellowships.[2] However, many predict the disinterest in the physical exam should fade by wintertime when radiology rules the day again.

Related Reading


  1. AMA Holds Funeral Service for Physical Exam (Gomerblog)
  2. Doctor Absolutely Crushes the Lung Exam This Morning (Gomerblog)

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