Liam Farrell: What 30 years in practice can teach you

La Rochefoucauld, a 17th-century philosopher who thought all behaviour was determined by what he called 'self love', distilled his beliefs into a number of maxims.

Penguin Classics used to produce a nice edition and at college, I carried a copy around, to appeal to the more intellectual girls.

In homage to the great man, after 30 years in practice, I have developed a few maxims of my own, the medical equivalent of not invading Russia during the winter and never playing dice with a Sicilian when death is on the line:

  • At this moment, somebody somewhere is writing a protocol for writing protocols.
  • Drinking three litres of laxative before having a colonoscopy is an ordeal every doctor should endure before inflicting it on others.
  • There is, in the misfortune of other doctors, something not entirely unpleasant.
  • Doctors should never wear suede shoes.
  • On a home visit, if all the furniture is thrashed but the TV and Sky box remain intact, there is no psychosis involved.
  • It is easier to be wise for patients than for ourselves.
  • The light at the end of the tunnel means you are having a colonoscopy and worse, you're awake.
  • The more I see of patients, the more I like my dog (adapted from Mark Twain).
  • There are lies, damned lies and statistics, and then there's the graphs that drug reps show you (also adapted from Mark Twain).
  • Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.
  • Demand to cut bureaucracy leads to conferences, workshops and training courses on how to do it.
  • No drug has yet been invented that will make you good looking and popular with the opposite sex.
  • All NHS bureaucrats are selfish boneheads.
  • Learn from complementary medicine; if you can't baffle them with brilliance, boggle them with bullshit.
  • You can learn something new every day, even from drug reps - for example, never marinate yourself in cologne overnight.

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell.

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