The Calm Before the Storm

The corridors seem eerily quiet, but with a sense of expectation and fear around them. People walk past, putting on a brave face. Some are excited and interested in the whole affair. Some look nervous and uncertain. We do a new kind of dance around each other, wanting to interact, yet keeping the obligatory 2m distance, worried and apologetic if we accidentally encroach the imaginary field around us.

This is General Practice in Spring 2020. There is a slight feeling of guilt. We are all up to date with paperwork which hasn’t happened for years and, although still keeping us busy, the work of General Practice is no longer drowning us in a unending sea of demands and expectations. We are praised by patients, friends and family, and yet we really don’t feel like we are doing much. And yet…

We are not sure what is round the corner, and the patient contacts we do have are complex and make us feel uncomfortable. Our tools of the trade are no longer at our fingertips. We are trying to do complicated balancing, listening to our patients, doing video consultations where possible, and trying to decide if it is safer to see someone and risk them picking up coronavirus, or to make complicated management decisions on the phone without the full information. We are all functioning slightly out of our comfort zone, and we feel uneasy.

We hear stories of our colleagues in other parts of the world and other parts of the country, who are struggling. We wonder if we are heading into a war zone and whether we will cope. We hope our training will just click in and we will manage, whatever the cost to ourselves. We hope that we’ll get through the day, and make the right decisions to carry our patients through this time. We want to help. We want to do more. We want to wave a wand that makes this virus go away. We don’t want to experience the sadness of losing our vulnerable patients, and we worry when we speak to them, that if they caught the virus, they might not make it through. And yet…

We hope that we can all learn something from this. The fact that General Practice is a lot quieter makes us wonder if there is a sustainable, easier way to run medicine in this country, that will stop the doctor epidemic of burnout and stress. We wonder if we can take heart from the way communities have rallied and all be a little more understanding and kinder to each other. We marvel at the way C02 emissions have dropped, the waters in Venice are clear and the swans are back and hope that maybe we can take heart from this and see that we have a chance to save our planet, if only we can alter our behaviour a bit.

Or maybe, when this is all over, whenever that may be, we will just go back to the same well trodden ways we traveled before.

-Penny

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