Liam Farrell: I'm a registrar and I'm OK

When I was a pre-clinical student the term registrar confused me. First I thought it was like a hotel registrar, that their job was to sit behind a desk in the hospital lobby, answer the phone and sign people in and direct them.

I didn't quite understand why these apparently simple tasks required a medical qualification. Maybe without it visitors would be being constantly misdirected; sent to the gynae ward instead of the ENT ward - an error that lay people might easily make.

When I became a clinical student I realised I was wrong about that particular role, but registrars were still ambiguous creatures, with many sub-species; senior registrars, junior registrars, research registrars and most menial of all, acting registrars.

These guys were exquisitely sensitive about their title and status, mistake a senior registrar for an ordinary registrar and he would spit right in your eye.

Acting registrar was a title I held briefly myself, due mainly to my outstanding clinical acumen, but also, I concede, due to a process of attrition - the consultant being off playing golf all the time or seeing his private patients, and the real registrar being prematurely old, grey as a rat, and terminally depressed because of his minimal career prospects.

Not that such a promotion went to my head or anything. I am a modest chap. It certainly did not seem to impress the chicks either, swaggering up to them at a disco, intoxicated with power, and saying: 'Hi babe, you look groovy, would you like a lift home in a clapped-out old Datsun, it may need a push-start, are you game, BTW I am a registrar,' never got me very far.

Lay people still do not understand the term, which made the bright idea of converting GP trainees to GP registrars unfortunate.

'I'll be away next week, I am giving a lecture on world peace to the UN, the registrar will see you then,' I told Mrs Magee.

She was distinctly unimpressed.

'First,' she said, 'the UN has lost its mandate and is nothing more than a bloated talking-shop for bureaucrats hitching a free ride on the gravy train. It has no relevance to the modern world, and will be the first to go when the revolution comes.'

'And second, I'm not looking to book a hotel room, I want to see a doctor.'

Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at

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