Perhaps we GPs could do with some social prescribing
Dr Punam Krishan
So the most peculiar yet interesting thing happened to me yesterday afternoon mid-surgery. My day had been much the same as every other GP day. Morning surgery was full on. Paperwork and home visits during lunch and then afternoon surgery, also full on. I was feeling tired, a bit hot and bothered and I just wanted my day to be over with.
I brought in my ninth patient of the afternoon, sat him down and opened with my standard, ‘How can I help you today?’
To my surprise, he replied: ‘No doc, what can I do for you today?’ Confused, unsure of what to say next, I smiled and glanced over to his medical summary. It told me he was 48, not suffering from any known psychiatric problems, rarely attended, was not on any medications… I smiled nervously and asked again: ‘What were you hoping I could do for you today?’
His infectious smile was hard to ignore. ‘Doc, what I want to know is, what I can do to brighten up your day?!’ he announced. My brain trying to process this, we sat in an awkward silence for a few seconds (which felt like minutes).
It was better than any thank you card or gift I’ve ever received at work
Then, before I could think of my next words, he broke into a comedy act. At 10 minutes, having had me in stitches, his phone alarm went off and he concluded: ‘Right doc, that’s your medicine. Have a good day.’ And he left.
I looked around for any hidden cameras, and sent a message to the admin staff. They were clueless. I googled him. Nothing!
Left speechless but sore faced from the laughter, I was conscious how my state of mind had changed from before this ‘consultation’; my spirit had definitely lifted. It seemed he genuinely had come in purely to cheer the doc up. One could argue he’d wasted a precious appointment, but I would say he actually made me a far better doctor for my remaining patients. It was better than any thank you card or gift I’ve ever received at work.
It really showed me the truth behind the saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine’. I do make the odd joke myself during consultations to relieve some tension, but with this I witnessed the benefits first hand, when in a stressed state, thanks to a very funny patient.
So, I would like to propose a new allied primary care role. Yes, dear health secretary, every practice needs an artist of some description employed to entertain the healthcare team. Whether it be a comedian, a musician or perhaps even an animal… whatever the practice deems suitable.
Someone, or something, to provide a 10-minute respite, distraction or activity could be the way forward as we explore ways to reduce burnout and help GPs to find balance in their own health and wellbeing during periods of high work pressures.
Dr Punam Krishan is a sessional GP in Glasgow