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“I’m fine, thank you” by PM Polly

by in Funny, GP Practice Management

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.”

[Total: 31   Average: 4.9/5]
PM Polly

PM Polly

Experienced Practice Manager doing my best to stay sane.

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12 Responses to ““I’m fine, thank you” by PM Polly”
  1. Avatar
    JM Says:

    just wow. what a crap day. I would have chucked in the towel around the 2nd paragraph. I frank and open discussion with the team to address the fact they are adding additional avoidable stress onto the team. Stress – avoid the avoidable.

    If you didn’t inhale a bottle of gin when you got home then I will eat my hat.

    I have sadly also got into the “I’m fine” routine, but my team know me better so they tend to send tea and biscuits when they know im flat out telling a lie. I have always been pretty good keeping a poker face but the last few months have broken down that ‘skill’, where its now pretty difficult to hide the truth. things aren’t fine, they aren’t going to be for a long time, and there is no one running to the rescue, but we will soldier on because that’s what we do.

    chin up. its Friday.


  2. Avatar
    Allison Edgeler Says:

    I am so sorry that you are feeling like this but on the same token am secretly relieved that I am not alone! I’ve just had 2 beautiful weeks of leave, returning fresh, recharged and having had enough sleep – that was Tuesday – today, I’m ready for the next one.

    Keep smiling.


  3. Avatar
    Nicola Davies Says:

    Polly, as ever, hitting the nail on the head. Brilliant! Am feeling fine too!!


  4. Avatar
    Nicola Davies Says:

    Brilliant!! Thanks again Polly – perfectly expressing how we’re all feeling….and yes, I’m fine too.


  5. Avatar
    Ann B Says:

    Oh dear PM Polly,

    Sadly this has become the norm in the world of Practice Management.

    I feel your pain. it’s quite an art isn’t it saying I’m fine thanks, with a smile on your face sometimes.

    But smile it is and just hope the big and positive pants help!

    Happy weekend to all and try to recoup where possible ;o) x

    Ann B


  6. Avatar
    Lou Says:

    Now I feel sane! Thank you PM Polly, it appears my daily PM experience is normal, quite normal it would seem. 2hrs into Friday morning and despite tackling a mental assault course before I reach my desk, how am I? “Just fine thank you”!!!


  7. Avatar
    Ali Coomer Says:

    This is brilliant!!


  8. Avatar
    Heike Burnett Says:

    Every Practice Manager Job Description should have a heading ‘Reality Check’ and the above listed in summary – love it! Regardless of JD content, sadly this is the reality for many of us pushing to the point where we advise ‘GO AWAY’ 🙂


  9. Avatar
    Julie King Says:

    Brilliant !!


  10. Avatar
    AB Says:

    First day back from annual leave today and one hour in I know exactly where Polly is coming from. Have too fell into the “Fine Thanks” routine because if were honest we all know none of the partners want to hear the truth!
    At least were all in the same boat, being a PM is sometimes a lonely place to be, where silent screams become the norm……


  11. Avatar
    Kerry Says:

    Brilliant – sounds familiar unfortunately


  12. Avatar
    Clare Says:

    Exactly. Well Done


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