District nurses; I couldn't manage without them and their unique combination of knowledge, experience and common sense that continues to survive attempts at hamstringing by ever-increasing red tape.
Occasionally, we do home visits together; tactics are important here. I listen to their advice and then repeat it back in different words so that it looks like it's really my own opinion. If called on for an opinion directly, I will watch her expression closely even as I speak, ready to change tack at any moment and contradict myself if necessary - for example, your ulcer is improving, I don't think we need any more antibiotics (then, observing the merest suggestion of a frown) but it hasn't improved as much as I hoped, so I think we do need antibiotics.
Joe had an extensive and persistent ulcer, and the nurse was busy dressing his leg, while at the head of the bed, far away from the combat zone, I was having a pleasant chat.
'You're a wonderful doctor,' said Joe, 'wonderful, wonderful, I don't know what I'd do without you.'
'Well, yes, of course,' I agreed, looking down to the frenzy of activity at the bottom of the bed, where there was an ever-growing pile of discarded bandages and dressings, under which the nurse, by now, had disappeared; I sensed some disapproval emanating from beneath it.
'That's what we're here for,' I said, cranking it up a bit further just for the hell of it. 'To cure sometimes, but comfort always.'
'Wonderful people, doctors,' echoed Joe, steam beginning to rise from the pile.
I thought, being a wonderful doctor and all, that I should make at least a token effort to help and demonstrate that I didn't consider simple manual labour to be beneath me. I picked up Joe's slippers and stooped to put one on. Slippers can be awkward things to the untrained: the Velcro clasp wouldn't come loose properly and I couldn't get the heel on. Joe began to squirm, unwilling to criticise Dr Wonderful.
The nurse regarded my clumsy efforts with a gleam of satisfaction in her eye.
'That's his sore leg, you know,' she said.