Today GP Geoff gets a new group of medical students to teach. The names may change from week to week, but there’s always at least one swot from Germany or the Far East, a home-grown rugger bugger who is too big for his chair, a student in a hijab, a gay man, a babe who fiddles constantly with her iPhone, and an argumentative leftie.
Geoff is a character from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda. I made him up, but, if you know much about medicine, he seems real enough.
Education is not a vessel to be filled, Geoff muses, but a fire to be lit. He has forgotten who said, it, but he’s pretty sure the fire should stay lit for the whole of their careers. So the students need a dose of reality.
Geoff reflects on his fifteen years of practice. The reality is that patients wangle sick notes because they don’t like their work. They get prescriptions for things they could have bought from the chemist. Well, par for the course.
They also suck you into their lives and dump their shit. So you get involved when they tell you about their affairs that went wrong, the drugs they score on a Friday night, or how much they hate a sister or brother.
Or when they’re still driving even though they shouldn’t be.
Case in point: nice Mrs Thingy. Geoff is not too hot good on names, but he knows he advised her very clearly not to drive until her seizures were under control.
The snag is her three children. Geoff instantly forgets what she says her husband does, but he gets the gist. Mr Thingy has to get to Ealing Broadway station by 7am so he can’t do the school run.
“Can you walk them to school instead?” asks Geoff, ready to extol the benefits of blue skies, fresh air, exercise, autumn leaves, and the rest.
“Doctor,” she says in a wheedling tone, “if I did that, it’d be a mile and half each way just for the boys. And Poppy is at a different school. There’s just no time. I’d run myself ragged, and that’s not good for my seizures.”
“Perhaps a neighbour can help?” suggests Geoff.
She gives a pitying look. “They’re all pensioners near us.”
“What about asking at the school? You may find a parent of a child in another class who lives near enough to you.” Geoff is aware he’s running late now.
“Well, I don’t know,” says Mrs Thingy.
“Why don’t you talk to the school secretary?” Geoff suggests. He may even need to involve Mr Thingy, find out if he can start work later during term-time. This is as far as one could possibly get from looking through the test results and reminding her about her smear. Geoff makes a mental note to do all this later.
Mrs T says nothing. She stares as if the GP is the baddie who makes up the laws.
Geoff continues, “If you have a seizure at the wheel… Well. It hardly bears thinking about. Remember the Glasgow bin lorry crash last year? The driver blacked out at the wheel and killed six people.”
“I know, I know.” Her glance at the door shows she’d like to end the conversation as soon as possible.
Geoff leans back in the chair, which isn’t far as he has a cheaper model than his partners. “You realize, don’t you, that I’m obligated to contact the DVLA myself if you don’t.” (For readers outside the UK, this is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.)
Her expression freezes. “But I thought confidentiality…”
“Doesn’t extend to situations where the public is in danger.” He shakes his head slowly as he pulls a sympathetic face.
“Oh,” she says in a small voice. “Right.”
Geoff knows what he will discuss with his students today. Confidentiality.
And the knack patients have of sucking you into their lives.
Easy tweet: “What They Don’t Teach at Medical School http://wp.me/p3uiuG-14k via @DrCarolCooper” #medicine #students