I’ve turned into ‘that’ patient. The one who sits in the waiting room (remember those days?) and bumps into someone they know. “How are you?” the friend asks. “Fine, thank you,” the patient replies. “How are you?” the patients asks. The friend replies, “Fine, thank you.”
That’s what I’ve turned into, whenever someone asks me how I am in work, because I’ve learnt that nobody wants the truth. Especially one of the partners. When they pop into my room after filling their cup with expensive ground coffee beans, enjoying their ‘admin time’, and ask me how I am, they don’t actually want to know how I am at all. I’ve learnt this over the years when I watch the colour drain from their faces as I tell them how I really am and they start looking at their shoes and then begin shuffling backwards, searching for someone who can save them.
So, now when one of the partners pops their head around my door and asks how I am, I reply, “I’m fine, thank you.”
I don’t reply with the truth.
Otherwise, today, for example, had I really answered that question properly, it would have gone something like this:
How am I?
My eyes feel like they’re going to implode and my head is heavy. The pharmacist texted me at 5.35am to tell me her child had a fever and could I arrange three COVID tests. She’d already arranged home tests over the weekend but she wanted to do another one, to be sure. Shortly after this, one of the receptionists messaged me to say her eyebrow microblading had left her looking permanently surprised and could she just “pop back to the beautician’s” for an hour this morning to get it fixed.
Two more texts arrived on my way into work. One GP couldn’t remotely log on because her dog had chewed the cable, and one of the partners, who’s now quarantined due to a romantic weekend away to Paris with his boyfriend, suddenly remembered he had no idea how to use remote access, and while I was driving he’d like me to talk him through the 15-digit password, log-on details and encryption so he could get started with his 8.30am clinic.
I walk in and note that, due to Storm Francis, the fence has blown down. There’s a queue of very disgruntled patients in face masks observing the social-distancing guidelines while the receptionist shouts to the patients around the screen instead of from behind it.
I’m only in ten minutes before the secretary is crying because her son failed his A levels and while I’m trying to impart words of wisdom to her, the receptionist comes out to tell me that they’ve run out of appointments. It’s 8.40am!
There’s a new cleaner who seems to have no sense of spacial awareness, who stops to tell me how awful the other practice she works at is; apparently, they say nothing she does is good enough. I spy the crumbs on the carpet behind her where she’s just hoovered and say nothing.
It’s not long before I hear a “we’re almost out of surgical masks” cry, and several nurses start throwing their gloved hands through boxes of PPE and I try to tentatively ask, again, could someone please stocktake and order regularly before we get to this point?!
As the day goes on, the problems mount. Everyone wants to book some time off. Patients complain because they either have to wear a mask or because they don’t want to. Patients now want to SEE their GP; they can see a hairdresser so why not a GP? Everyone’s had the wrong medication or has just taken their last tablet and needs their prescription NOW.
I’m trying to fit in an appraisal with a staff member that’s six months late while setting up the payroll and desperately checking if I paid the Pension and PAYE. There are issues with the eConsult platform – all of a sudden, the server they sit on has broken. Every patient is ringing to ask when they can have the flu vaccination, the copier has run out of toner and the fire alarm goes off due to the storm.
At least we haven’t run out of toilet paper. Today.
This is what I’d really like to say when I’m asked how I am, but what do I really say?
“I’m fine thank you.”