Liam Farrell: No sitting on the fence, or anywhere else

When I was a young buck, impecunious yet beautiful (according to my Auntie Mamie anyway, who had never lied to me, except about why she and Uncle Benny never appeared in the same room at the same time), I worked as a locum in a private practice.

Liam Farrell: 'The act of sitting down and getting up again is time-consuming, so she would hide the patient's chair behind the sharps box.'
Liam Farrell: 'The act of sitting down and getting up again is time-consuming, so she would hide the patient's chair behind the sharps box.'

The GP’s wife was both practice nurse and practice manager, and acutely aware of the importance of ‘bums on seats, dear boy’, as Sir Laurence Olivier used to say.

If surgery was going slowly, she would sit in on the consultations, ‘pour encourager les autres’. If a consultation was going slowly, she would start nodding her head in anxiety, getting faster and faster as the consultation slowed even further. For a bit of divilment, I’d occasionally ask the patient: ‘Let’s go back to the beginning, what vaccinations did you have as a child?’. This would set her jumping up and down in a frenzy.

As a last resort, because the act of sitting down and getting up again is time-consuming, she would hide the patient’s chair behind the sharps box, so if they did try to sit down, they risked a nasty injury.

But what goes around, comes around, and a recent study has suggested that she was a woman before her time, albeit a sad old woman. According to the BBC (so it must be true), British researchers believe sitting for long periods can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and even death.

I am sometimes a good doctor and I don’t want my patients to die, so I’m getting rid of their chair. There are further advantages. A chair sends the wrong message. ‘Put your feet up, make yourself comfortable,’ it says. Creating expectations is a dangerous game, next thing you’ll be wanting a lace cloth and a wine-bucket. Well, I’ve got news for you, buddy, this is a high-pressure surgery and my time is precious.

I’ll keep my own comfy seat, of course, although I understand that in doing so, I’m putting my own life at risk; greater love hath no man and all that, it’s the kind of sacrifice we doctors have to make.
It’s our vocation, you know.

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

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