A lot of GPs say that one of the attractions of general practice is that they don’t what’s going to come through the door. And it’s true. Every time I buzz someone through, I have a brief read through their records and wonder what symptoms or issues they’ll need help with. More importantly, I always wonder about the type of person who’s going to come through the door. The GPs might recognise the name and immediately recall who the patient is, who they’re related to, what they’re usually like. They have more background knowledge. I, on the other hand, have no clue what to expect.
For the most part, the consultations go well. There’ve been occasions where I would have liked a do-over. And once in a while, I’ll have a difficult consultation.
When it happens and I have an angry patient, usually male, sitting across from me (and on one occasion standing over me), I think immediately how vulnerable the situation is. I’m alone in a room, my back towards a closed door and only a corner of a desk separating me from an agitated person. On the plus side, I think to myself, the walls are thin, surely someone would come running if there was a scuffle. There’s also a safety alarm in each room. A rectangular red button encased in white plastic, is placed against the wall just underneath my computer screen. If the situation arose, I’d have to reach across to push it in full view of whoever I was afraid of. There’s nothing subtle about pressing a big red button.
Then I wonder, when would be the ideal time to press the button. I don’t want to blow a situation out of proportion, and have everyone come running from all corners of the building and descend onto my room. Embarrassing. Thankfully I haven’t needed to so far and the individual in question has eventually left. But in those situations, it’s like all my internal organs begin writhing around nervously. I feel uncomfortable and maybe, sort of threatened.
I sometimes get a twinge of discomfort when I’m supposed to go on a house visit. I might just have an active imagination. No, I know I have an active imagination which really helps me think up loads of ridiculous scenarios. For example, I don’t know if old Fred, who’s complaining of back pain, spent a part of his youth beating people up for money and has finally retired to his armchair but still has a mean left hook. At least in the practice I’m surrounded by colleagues but on a home visit, who knows what I’ll be walking into.
Like I said, active imagination.