Time to care
Posted on 26 November 2012 by Alexander Gates
I recently had one of those rare but very welcome letters of praise from a patient. It meant a lot, as you can sometimes feel isolated being a junior doctor in a primary care setting
I discussed it with my GP supervisor, and her reply was surprising: ‘Think yourself lucky — we GPs never get feedback like that!’
This got me thinking, perhaps the presence of junior doctors in general practice provides a perceived extra service that no over-worked GP could hope to provide. That is, the very notion of spending 20 minutes with each patient, the chance to explore their concerns in more detail, the luxury of time. In fact, for my first month in general practice, I was afforded 30 minute slots, as are many junior doctors when they begin their rotations.
Of course, the very act of listening to a patient for that long has in itself a huge therapeutic effect. I’ve lost count of the number of times a patient has thanked me for being so thorough and taking the time to listen, contrary to the perceived experience of being ushered out of the consulting room by a busy GP after an all-too brief encounter.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the GPs I have got to work with over the last three months, and their commitment to providing the best possible patient care and experience is clear to see. It therefore saddens me that time, that luxury that so many patients need and appreciate, is so increasingly scarce in general practice.
I don’t feel I have offered anything particularly groundbreaking to my patients by way of impressive diagnoses or treatment, but what is evident is that as a junior doctor I can listen to each patient with an enthusiastic attention to detail without having the challenge of addressing all their needs and concerns in under 10 minutes. I do hope the government’s latest primary care reforms do not put even greater pressure on the consultation.
Alexander Gates is a foundation doctor 2 in Bristol
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