I can’t prescribe you a new job – published in BMA News 19 July 2014

“Hello, my name is Dr Sam Dawlatly, sorry to keep you waiting. Come on in and take a seat.”

“Yes fine thank you, how are you?”

It always amuses me how my opening patter is not actually taken in at all by new patients. They are probably busy rehearsing their opening lines.

“So, what brings you here?” I ask as I settle in my chair.

“Actually, I’ve come for a bit of advice…”

I nod and resist the urge to flick though the patient summary as he talks.

“I’m not actually sure it’s a medical problem, but as you had a free appointment, you know free of charge as well as available-free, I thought I would come and chat things over with you,” he said, “Is that OK?”

“Go ahead,” I said flatly, whilst trying to guess whether the issues  was work, housing, relationship or family. My money was on work.

After a brief pause, he continued, “You see, it’s my job…”

“Bingo!” I thought, already rehearsing my reply, “Well I can’t prescribe you a new job, you know!”

“… you see my job is kind of stressful. It always has been. And I knew that would be the case when I embarked on the training. I have a lot of responsibility to bear, the welfare of the members of the general public that I see, but also the people that work for me and my business partners to bear in mind…”

My heart sunk as I heard the hope in his voice that I could make a difference. Did he think I was some sort of career advisor?

“… Well the fundamentals of the job are stressful enough. But things are getting worse.”

“In what way?” hoping that I sounded and looked more interested than I felt. I lay my hands in my lap and crossed my legs to mirror him, then leaned forward slightly. The computer hadn’t gone onto screensaver yet.

“Well here’s the irony, the people I come to see, do so just because they can, at the drop of a hat, for the slightest reason and expect me to solve things that are outside of my ability, qualifications and job description. Things that I am not paid to do.” He paused and looked straight at me.

“Just like you are doing now!” I thought, holding my tongue.

“Just like I’m doing right now,” he echoed my thoughts perfectly.

It was then that I noticed that he was wearing my shoes, my trousers, my shirt, but I couldn’t quite see his face…

I startled as the phone rang and lifted my head off the desk. I was all alone in the consulting room. I picked up the phone.

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