The receptionist blithely welcomes me and proceeds to show me the way to the doctor’s office, as we exchange morning greetings with other members of staff on the way. I experience a mental sign of relief, finally a welcomed change from the clinical tower blocks, which had accepted me so impersonally over the past weeks.
The morning harbours a surge of young coughs, colds and runny noses, along with the challenge of settling crying babies, and the even bigger challenge of settling worried mums. Next through the door comes a toddler clinging onto her father’s neck. I can see the GP growing more concerned as the bright light seems to trouble her; she has high temperature and a rash. Instantaneously, penicillin is administered and soon after an ambulance siren can be heard outside. This is a job that requires rapid assessment, recognition and management. The GP holds a crucial responsibility to sieve the life threatening, from the self-limiting illnesses.
To hold this position in the deliverance of healthcare, can only be described as a privilege
Before we know it, it’s time for home visits and we leave the surgery, equipped with the doctor’s bag in hand. We arrive at a quaint cottage, and an elderly lady shows us to her husband, who is undergoing palliative care at home. The GP reviews his analgesia and arranges for community support; it’s clear his wife is struggling to care for him alone. A GP may not always be able to save lives; instead he is able to improve the quality of life, and in this case, ensure a comfortable end to life. This is important in the community as the GP upholds a core NHS value; to enable universal access to healthcare, including those who are unable to attend services.
We arrive back at the surgery, and the GP takes a phone call regarding the commissioning of healthcare services. Working in general practice, gives you a chance to become receptive to the unique healthcare needs of the local community and to tailor service provision to meet these needs.
The last patient to see this afternoon is a 16-year-old girl. Her mother is becoming increasingly worried about her daughter’s unexplained vomiting. The GP explains he will need to examine her, and with a chaperone he takes her into a side examination room. The teenage girl avoids eye contact; she seems uncomfortable. Sensing this, the GP reassures her that they can speak in confidence. He enquires if there is a chance she could be pregnant. She pauses, then responds ‘yes’ and explains that her mother doesn’t know. At that moment, I could see what it means to be a GP. Embedded in every community, a GP creates a safe place for patients, whatever the age, gender or circumstance, to share their problems and build a rapport based on confidentiality and trust. To hold this position in the deliverance of healthcare, can only be described as a privilege.
Sally is a fourth year medical student at Leeds University
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