She was living with her mother and after spending 10 minutes with her, it was evident to me that she was leading a complex life, due to the number of issues she was dealing with. These various issues included malnutrition, drug and alcohol problems and relationship problems.
During the consultation, it was obvious that there was going to be no simple fix to the problems from which this lady suffered. However, what impressed and more importantly, inspired me, was the way the GP dealt with her situation.
Where there seemed to be close to no solutions, the GP offered a very human balance of: compassion and professionalism; authority and humility; attentiveness and explanation. A mix of skills that I think cannot simply be taught, but accumulated from years of reflective clinical practice.
It was clear to me from observing the GP in that home visit, that the science of medicine is something that, for a bright medical student, is not too difficult to grasp, but the art of medicine is an entirely different entity.
Continuity of care
This art is perfected only through hours of experience; of listening to the raw human stories which medical professionals are faced with day after day, and allowing the undulating patient history to resonate with our human nature over weeks, months, years.
My belief is that to develop this art of medicine, we must be a companion in our patients’ life journey, and that to do this, a strong ‘continuity of care’ is required. Regardless of the current climate, I believe GPs can still deliver this continuity – to patients, to their families, and to a local community.
My desire to be a GP comes from a genuine want to be a constant in patient’s lives: to understand their background; their interpretation of their experiences; their priorities, hopes and losses. My belief is that by building rapport, through every consultation, will help me to frame their health and well-being through their lens. I believe this framing would allow me as a future GP to facilitate positive lifestyle decisions, and empower healthy behaviours.
To return to the lady mentioned at the beginning: although she had a plethora of complex needs, my belief is that support can be found in the simple. Over a course of many years, perhaps a series of multiple short GP consultations, a practitioner could offer small, simple interventions. Whether these interventions are health solutions, or nothing more than a listening ear, I think the GP as a patient companion who specialises in the art of medicine is one whom I would like to emulate.
- Oliver Giles is a phase 4 (final year) medical student at the University of Sheffield