Medical Short Stories: Doctors, Medicine, and Healthcare

These short stories all feature a doctor as an important character, if not the main one.

Some are set in a doctor’s office or in a hospital.

See also:

• Short Doctor Stories •

“Dr. H. A. Moynihan” by Lucia Berlin

Lucia has to work in her Grandpa’s dental office through the summer. He’s a drinker, mean, proud and bigoted, but he’s the best dentist in West Texas, maybe all of Texas. One Sunday morning, Lucia is unexpectedly called in to work.

This story can be read in the preview of A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories.

Colloquy | Shirley Jackson

Mrs. Arnold goes to a doctor and asks how to tell if someone is crazy. She then relates a story of her husband getting upset when he couldn’t get his daily paper.

This is the third story in the preview of The Magic of Shirley Jackson.

“Mind and Body” by William Carlos Williams

A patient talks about her condition and her views. She doesn’t have much faith in doctors, because they haven’t been able to help her properly over the years. She believes in speaking her mind.

Some of “Mind and Body” can be read in the preview of The Doctor Stories.

“Intrigues” by Anton Chekhov

Doctor Shelestov is getting ready for a meeting. He was involved in an incident and has to give an accounting of himself. He stands in front of the mirror, practicing an appropriate expression to show how unconcerned he is. He also plans on arriving late and feigning boredom as well.

This story is in Chekhov’s Doctors: A Collection of Chekhov’s Medical Tales.

“The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams

A doctor makes a house call to examine a young girl. He finds that she has hidden the severity of her illness and she resists the examination, leading to a battle of wills.

Read here

“A Country Doctor” by Franz Kafka

A doctor experiences several surreal events when he’s called out during a winter’s night to treat a sick man.

Read “A Country Doctor”

“The Way We Live Now” by Susan Sontag

An unnamed man is showing symptoms of a disease, which turns out to be AIDS. His friends visit him in the hospital. They try to cheer him up, and they talk about his progress and behavior among themselves.

Read “The Way We Live Now”

“A Day’s Wait” by Ernest Hemingway

A young boy has a temperature of a hundred and two. The doctor leaves three different pills and a schedule for taking them. His father attends to him while he stays in bed.

Read “A Day’s Wait”

“The District Doctor” by Ivan Turgenev

A doctor makes an urgent house call where a beautiful young woman is in a bad condition. He tries to reassure her family even though a recovery is unlikely.

Read “The District Doctor”

“I Want to Live!” by Thom Jones

Mrs. Wilson finds out she has uterine and breast cancer. It’s also an irregular kind of cancer that will complicate the treatment. Her doctor is good but lacks bedside manner. She thinks about her options and copes with her ordeal.

Read “I Want to Live!”

“The Doctor’s Heroism” by Villiers De L’isle Adam

Doctor Hallidonhill is a renowned lung specialist with a steady stream of patients. One day a man in terrible condition comes to see him. He is tall, has enlarged pupils, is emaciated, and he’s looking for help.

“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A doctor claims to have water from the legendary Fountain of Youth. He invites four elderly acquaintances over for an experiment. He offers them a drink of the special water.

Read here

“The Doctor’s Son” by John O’Hara

There is an outbreak of influenza and Dr. Malloy is sick. His son, Jimmy, drives the replacement, the medical student Dr. Myers, on his rounds. One of the stops is Mrs. Evans, whom Dr. Myers is attracted to.

“Last Words” by J. P. Featherstone

A doctor recalls his experience at the deathbed of an elderly doctor. The old man gave his views on life and medicine, what’s important and what isn’t. He relates a particularly memorable experience with a young woman who he attended to. She was in a diabetic coma and recovered, which was a rarity in those days. He would occasionally check in on her until she was released. One day, she turned up at his office.

Read “Last Words” 

“Doc Mellhorn and the Pearly Gates” by Stephen Vincent Benét

When Doc Mellhorn dies, he’s surprised to find himself on the road again. He had served as a country doctor for about forty years, and many were alive because of him. People from all around came to his funeral. That’s when things got strange for Doc Mellhorn. He found himself driving his first car, a Model T, on a long road. Things felt a bit different.

Read “Doc Mellhorn and the Pearly Gates”

“The Enemy” by Pearl Buck

Dr. Sadao Hoki, who’s a surgeon, and his wife, Hana, live on the coast of Japan. Japan and America are at war. On a foggy night, the Hoki’s are out on the verandah. Through the mist, they see someone stagger out of the sea. Thinking he might be a lost fisherman, they run to him. To their surprise, and consternation, he’s a wounded white man—an escaped American prisoner of war. They don’t know what to do with him.

Read “The Enemy”

“Silver Water” by Amy Bloom

Violet tells the story of her sister Rose who suffers from schizophrenia and had her first psychotic break at fifteen. Rose is taken to many therapists with mixed results. When she goes to Dr. Thorne, she begins to make some progress.

“Lord Mountdrago” by W. Somerset Maugham

Dr. Audlin, an accomplished psychoanalyst, waits in his office for Lord Mountdrago, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Lord Mountdrago’s many good qualities are balanced by some major defects of character. He’s reluctant to tell Dr. Audlin why he’s come. He’s been having troubling dreams.

Read “Lord Mountdrago”

“The Good Doctor” by Adam Haslett

A psychiatrist makes a long drive to see a patient who’s been getting her prescriptions renewed by phone. He wants to engage her in some talk therapy and better understand her situation.