My son was taking his time doing his homework on indices. I had been watching him for a while: he sharpened his pencil, drew a neat margin in his Maths book, then slowly took out his calculator, blew some eraser off the page and looked to find the relevant questions in his exercise book. From what I could see it looked to be large scale act of procrastination.
I was finding it hard not to intervene and inject some urgency into the task.
‘Maybe you should speed up. You haven’t got all day.’
‘I’m getting organised,’ he retorted.
‘You mean, delaying doing any work as long as possible.’ This earned me a stare.
‘It’s OK to take your time sometimes Mum,’ he came back with this wise nugget.
I have recently been coming to the same conclusions myself – not an easy undertaking given the fast conveyor belt that I have learnt to deal with over the years. I am sure we would all like to take our time when doing things. But in this modern age time is a luxury.
Not enough hours in the day
There are physically not enough hours in the day to clear the desk completely. We are constantly trying to juggle, create and manage our time. The recent GMC survey seemed to suggest that our pressures and dwindling compassion was somehow linked to the 10-minute consultation.
This may be, but I see no more face-to-face patients than I did six years ago when I first became a partner. What is not comparable at all is the amount of work that keeps on landing outside of these clinical encounters, in pigeon holes, results inbox(es) and prescription trays. Then there is the email traffic and countless telephone calls.
Having worked harder and smarter to deal with the never-ending work, I have now decided to give myself permission to work fewer hours in the day, but above all to not feel guilty that I need to pack more in my 11-hour day because I am a part-time doctor.
This week when I did not write that orthopaedic referral letter the same evening or make that audiology referral when I had a few spare minutes because of a DNA, the whole world did not come tumbling down.
Being a GP is a vocation, with compassion at its core even if endless obstacles strewn at every corner threaten its very existence. As this tumultuous year draws to a close, I know that from now on I will not let time dictate me. And Christmas has reminded me again about giving, goodwill and coming together (that should exist all year round) and I will concentrate my precious time on that.
- Dr Aziz is a GP in Bristol