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Independents' Day

Screaming baby a must-have

Don't let sleep deprivation put you off – a screaming baby can boost your consultation skills

Don't let sleep deprivation put you off – a screaming baby can boost your consultation skills

Many of you will now be burrowed down into your respective practices. In fact, there's a distinct possibility you may feel on top of things. In extreme cases you may feel on top of it all, and if this is you please let me know your secret.

For the rest of you, be aware that one piece of essential registrar kit may have been missing from your list – the screaming infant. I have one. A blond model, so slightly slower than some, but worth his weight in gold. He has revolutionised how I practise and I intend to conduct an audit and report back to you about the percentage of consultations that benefit.

Why is a screaming infant so crucial? The words sympathy, empathy and understanding spring to mind. Having recently been to a concert where they smashed their instruments and then jumped on them, I can officially report that the screaming infant is infinitely worse. They need a new decibel or possibly Richter scale.

So, when mum or dad come to you and say they have had a hard night, trust me, they have had a hard night. Be sympathetic. Imagine working as a busy doctor on call overnight and then working during the days as well. At least in the NHS, that's now illegal.

Try to make your acquisition about month two or three of the year. You'll need a bit of time to toughen up and find your feet first. Some of you can get one via the traditional route. Single men could perhaps borrow one, but I insist it is strictly between the hours of midnight and 6am. Other options include shopping abroad as in the recent case of a certain film star couple who are building their own UN.

Having acquired your infant you will soon realise they do some amazing things. The classic is yelling so hard they then hold their breath, turn blue, then yell some more. On paper it sounds straightforward. In the flesh it's like a Hollywood special effect.

While working in paediatrics I saw a young couple bring in a screaming infant with the red and blotchy effect, best witnessed at the nape of the neck. This tends to occur because they are pudgy and lovely. Their GP had apparently told them it was not normal. That GP had evidently not read this column.

There's also one-upmanship, although it's usually best left unsaid. If the baby's mum/dad says 'He's been unwell for four days now', you can lean back slowly in your chair and think 'My boy's been unwell since September'. That is if you can think straight after all the sleep deprivation.

There is one other reason to obtain one, which I include here for the sake of completion: they're bloody marvellous.

Dr Geoff Tipper is a GP registrar in Maidenhead, Berkshire

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