Liam Farrell: Every specialist loves his comfort zone

Every specialist fondly believes, in his heart, that his specialty is the only one that really matters.

It is their comfort zone, a cosy womb-like little room with nipples on the walls, and they rarely step outside their area of expertise; we never hear of gynaecologists telling cardiologists how to do their jobs, nor pulmonologists interfering in the middle of a barium enema. But somehow, strangely, this reticence disappears when it comes to general practice; suddenly everyone's an expert.

An oncologist recently bemoaned the fact that GPs no longer do regular home visits, and when they are there no longer take the time to sit in the kitchen and have a nice cup of tea.

I have to concede that he does have a point, though he was mistaken about the reasons. The reason I do fewer house calls is because I can't get parked, what with all the oncologists' cars in the driveway.

And when I do eventually get to the house, and as advised head straight for the kitchen, I can hardly get the door open what with all the oncologists sitting round the kitchen table drinking big mugs of tea and stuffing themselves until their tongues turn blue with muffins soaked in sweat.

An A&E consultant also had the barefaced cheek to advise that GPs should ascertain from their patients where they intend to take their holidays. But as I'm always open to new ideas (except homeopathy, of course) I decided to give it a try, and hey, it has its good points.

In spare moments during the consultation, in those awkward silences when the conversation drags and each second seems to last an eternity, just pop in the question: 'So, where are you going on your holidays this year?' in the same sincere and interested manner that hairdressers and drug reps do. The question itself is reassuring and life-affirming; it implies a certain basic level of good health i.e. they won't be dead by then and therefore technically unable to go on holiday.

And like hairdressers and drug reps (we can learn a lot from them, such as always marinate in cologne overnight), the beauty is that you don't have to bother listening to the answer; just sit and dream awhile and wait till their lips stop moving, and then say: 'That sounds nice'.


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