5 Things I Want My Patients To Know
Every day in general practice is a new adventure. I can safely say in several years of working as a GP that I have never had two days the same. The days are filled with intellectual challenge, humour, tears, good news, painful secrets and everything in between. I feel so privileged to be let into people’s lives and share in their journey. I am also completely exhausted by the time I go home.
Despite so much variety, there are some things that happen frequently in my consulting room. I have observed common worries that patients have about coming to see the doctor. After reflecting on this recently I have decided to make a list of some important things that I, your GP, want you to know. I know I can’t speak for every other doctor in the world, but I imagine that most would feel this way too.
1. You are never wasting my time.
I hear this one a lot. You are valuable and important, and your well being matters. Whatever concern you have, however small it may seem, I am happy to listen. If you have been worrying about something and I am able to reassure you, that is a good outcome. If I give you a check up and all is well, this is possibly the high point of my morning. Please don’t ever apologise for coming in. I would hate for something to be really wrong and you delayed treatment because you thought it was a waste of time. Just come. I really mean it.
2. You never need to apologise for how you are dressed or that you didn’t shave your legs.
This is a very common worry. I can honestly tell you that I won’t notice your clothes or whether or not you shaved your legs. When I am taking a history or doing an examination, my mind is working hard in the background. I am thinking of all the differential diagnoses for your concerns. I am thinking about what I need to look for and what tests I should be ordering. You never need to dress up to come to the doctor. Unless you turn up in some sort of themed costume I can honestly say I won’t notice.
3. I believe you when you tell me how sick your kids are.
Let me tell you a common scenario. A child looks terribly unwell, high fever, pale, lethargic and not eating. Their concerned parent rings up and makes an appointment. As the child enters the clinic, the doorway seems to have a magical effect on the child who suddenly brightens up and appears to have made a miraculous recovery. Trust me, I know this happens. My own children have done this many times. I will always listen to parents who are concerned about their children. You know them better than anyone. I am happy to review a child as many times as it takes before they are well again. Please remember my first point – you are never wasting my time. I believe you.
4. Your children are always welcome.
It can be so hard bringing children to the doctor. They get frustrated with waiting. They are often feeling unwell, tired or hungry. I know how hard it must be for them when I have to look in their ears or check their temperature, when they feel miserable and want to go home. Your children are welcome in my consulting room any time. I will never judge you for giving them an iPad or treats to get through the consultation. I will never judge you for their behaviour if they have a meltdown. I have four children and have had to leave the supermarket with a screaming toddler on a number of occasions. I see how hard you are working and how much patience you are putting in every day. Your children are always welcome.
5. You never need to apologise for crying.
I have a very comfortable couch in my consulting room, purchased to help with breastfeeding consults. It turns out it is a great place for people to share their struggles. You may notice there is always a box of tissues within arms’ reach. That box gets refilled regularly. I consider it one of the great privileges of my job that people trust me enough to share their difficult feelings, memories and burdens. Your mental and emotional health is important. Please don’t ever apologise for crying. It’s what I am here for. This is a safe space, with no judgement.
Please feel free to share these words with anyone you think might be helped by them.