Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hearing the Sound of a Barrel Being Scraped

It had to happen sometime.

As the locum GP called Stephen's name I looked at him and recognised him.

For I had met him before, somewhere else, in a different part of the country, in amongst a group of candidates training as GPs, doing a mock exam.

He was one of a couple who - the examiner had told me at the time - had not been expected to pass. He stuck in my mind because of his particularly poor communication skills.

And on this morning's showing, I really don't know how he did pass.

Stephen has had an extremely painful shoulder and arm for a long time. He has been waiting for a scan and some physiotherapy. Because it's got even worse, we had gone to the doctor to try to speed things up. I went in with Stephen because I speak fluent Doctor.

It was just as well, because this doctor didn't speak fluent anything. He was from overseas and sometimes overseas doctors struggle because of a strong accent or inappropriate vocabulary.

That wasn't the case here. He just had inappropriate everything.

One of the strange things he did was insert the word "whatd'youmacallit" before every noun.

"So you have pain in your whatd'youmacallit? shoulder and it goes all down your whatd'youmacallit arm? and you have it almost all the whatd'youmacallit? time?"

Okay, in a better doctor this would have come over as a strange verbal tic and might not have been so crucial. But in the case of someone who was bad in everything else, it was just the opposite of icing on the cake.

No introduction. Very poor eye contact. Very dismissive. He diagnosed it - almost in passing - as osteoarthritis, without apparently understanding any of the implications of this for the patient.

"So it's just wear and tear caused by ageing. There's no point in having a scan because that's all that it will show. You're too young for surgery so there's nothing much you can do about it. Just take some paracetamol or ibuprofen."

Stephen was forced to explain, for the second time in several minutes, that actually, the pain is not just mildly annoying, not just very bad, but absolutely agonising and he didn't know how he can live with it.

Finally Dr Whatd'youmacallit, clearly pushed way beyond the limits of his abilities, prescribed another drug that he thought might help. We'll see.

Stephen has a week's supply of these new tablets and after that he'll go back and see a different doctor and start again.

I don't know how this doctor passed his final exams to become a GP. They have five years at medical school, then two years in a hospital, then three years to train as a GP.

I'm not sure how this chap passed any of it. He must have had an on day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

“You're too young for surgery so there's nothing much you can do about it.” This is doctor speak for “You’re employed and therefore can only afford to visit surgery a maximum of say once a fortnight. Now if you were retired then you be in my surgery every day. That would really piss me off and I’ll have to get something done about it.”

9:06 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Perhaps he was sponsored by manufacturers of paracetamol or more likely somebody else sat his exams for him. It's like the National Lottery with health care sometimes.

2:24 pm  
Blogger Jan Blawat said...

Is there an international law that people cannot be doctors in the country of their birth? Here in the U.S. we have lots of young people trying to get into school to become nurses and doctors. There are no openings for them. The ones who do graduate must practice in some other country because all the doctors here are from Pakistan, India, or China. A lot of the nurses are from the Philippines. Perhaps it's a way to insure that no one gets treated, the medical professionals just mumble at them and send them home with a bottle of pills. You can't sue them for a wrong diagnosis because you have no idea what they said. Could someone tell me where the English-speaking doctors and nurses are practicing?

3:35 am  

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