Don’t forget your stethoscope
Starting out on home visits can be daunting, but a little preparation can go a long way. Before setting out, I gather as much information about the patient as I can from the other doctors and nurses, and also from the notes. Check recent blood tests, clinic letters and, if extra keen, see whether there are any quality points that need chasing.
Try to avoid forgetting essential items such as a stethoscope, prescription pad, necessary paperwork and numbers for emergency admissions. It just does not look good.
Half the challenge of a home visit is finding the address. I carry a satellite navigation system and a street map but, despite this, navigating around some estates is the stuff of nightmares.
Luckily, most home visits are to repeat offenders so you will soon get to know where the regulars live. Keep your wits about you in dodgy areas and trust your instincts if you start to feel unsafe.
Beware of the dog
Very rural areas and very inner-city areas seem plagued by dogs. Don’t trust any of them. To a possessive dog, the very act of measuring the BP can be grounds for attack.
Seeing people in their own home often gives a good insight into their lives, and helps you to get to know them better. A sneaky look in the kitchen can be very revealing — I have come across refrigerators empty of food, cupboards full of a muddle of unused medications, and even major surprises such as insulin stored in the bread bin.
Make use of 999
Sometimes you will find a patient much more unwell than you expected. Do not panic. Be familiar with whatever emergency gear you choose to carry and don’t be afraid to call 999.
If you are not sure, ring your trainer for advice. As long as you don’t forget your mobile you are never truly alone.
Anna Greenham is a locum GP in Newcastle. She qualified as a GP in February 2006
- Tools of the trade.
- Mobile phone.
- Biscuits or a bone to bribe dog.