‘What’s my condition?’

An easy patient assessment activity you can incorporate in any classroom


This article was originally posted at Limmer Education and is reprinted with permission.

By Dan Limmer

There was a TV show called “What’s My Line” from the 1950s – the 1970s. I have memories of watching this show with my grandparents back then. The celebrity panel asked questions of people on the show to guess their occupation.

Why am I writing about this old TV show? I was looking for a way to get my new AEMT students into patient assessment. I wondered how to get them thinking and excited about integrating their EMT knowledge into their new role as an AEMT student.

The object of
The object of "What's my condition?" is to guess the clinical condition in the fewest number of questions. (Photo/Getty Images)

I don’t exactly know how that game show flashback got into my head. It may be a combination of creativity and dementia. But I digress.

EMS assessment game show

The beauty of this exercise is that it doesn’t require simulation or moulage. I brought in a couple of paramedic students to act as the patients. I gave them a condition and a paper with their signs and symptoms. My AEMT students got a generic chief complaint. The objective was to guess the clinical condition in the fewest number of questions.

I provided two patients:

  1. An 82-year-old woman with a “silent” myocardial infarction. Her chief complaint is weakness and malaise. To get to the correct condition, the students had to ask about breathing difficulty (pertinent negative), ask about lung sounds to find the fine crackles, and value her past history of hypertension and type II diabetes.
  2. A 40-year-old woman complains of a sudden onset of breathing difficulty. She recently had a cast taken off her leg and takes birth control pills. The sudden onset, near-syncope, and pleuritic chest pain will round out the pulmonary embolus diagnosis.

The benefits to students include:

  • Realizing that not all assessments or history questions are of equal value
  • Breaking from the “SAMPLE” assessment and considering body systems during assessment
  • Employing early differential diagnostic strategies
  • Applying advanced reasoning with pertinent negatives, diagnoses of exclusion, and valuing the past history and risk factors

I have 18 students in my class. I only had two gameshow patients. To keep students occupied and learning between patients, they completed body system exam worksheets. It helped them cement the lecture and the reading on body system exams.

Besides being uncomplicated, the other benefit is that it is a game. It helped set expectations in a safe and non-threatening way. I set the stage for the actual assessments I will ask them to do in subsequent classes.

I remain convinced that my lecture time should be reduced, my students thinking and “out of seat” time learning should be increased, and that doing teaches more than listening.

If you try this, let us know how it goes. Games in EMS education certainly aren’t new. We would love to hear about your classroom games.


Read more:

Read more:

EMT 360: Don’t study hard, study smart

The flipped classroom challenges students to study smart, instead of merely memorizing facts and rote repetition of psychomotor skills


We have also added these worksheets to our collection of Dynamic Learning Exercises at the instructor portion of EMTReview.com.  To see more classroom activities log in or create a free account.

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