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When I grow up, I’ll be a worse GP

Dr Zoe Norris

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Allow me to introduce you to my new favourite word. Adulting (verb). If you’ve yet to come across this word, let me explain.

I distinctly remember the yearning I had throughout my school years to be a proper grown-up. When I was 10 years old, I remember looking at a work experience student in the class and thinking, ‘wow – one day I will be grown up and classy like her’. She was all of 16.

At university, I had the unshakeable belief that on the day I was handed my cap and gown, I would also become a proper grown-up. I would know how to adult.

Then I qualified, and it didn’t quite happen. Standing by a patient’s bed at 3am, reaching for the cannula and managing to stick it into my own finger, subtly trying to remove it and provoking a flurry of my own blood to drip onto the floor, and trying to hide all of this while still looking professional, I realised I had not nailed adulting yet.

I may never master ‘adulting’ but I think this makes me a more relatable GP

I got married. I did my GP training. I got so tangled up with the sphygmomanometer that I couldn’t work out how to unravel myself enough to take the patient’s BP and just had to give up. Somehow I qualified as a GP. I bought a house. Yet I still feared that any moment someone would realise I didn’t really understand the point of ophthalmology, that I couldn’t remember all parts of the Krebs cycle.

Being a thirtysomething professional mum would be the making of me, I was sure. Well, you can guess how that turned out. I was the bedraggled new mum who turned up to work with odd shoes, my career largely propped up by kindly receptionists and nurses who fed me caffeine and biscuits.

The list of my childlike mishaps could probably fill a book. I once wore a black bra under a cream top to work and spent the entire day trying to consult with my arms crossed.

Then there was the time I walked straight into the waiting room wall when calling a patient and it *really* hurt.

And at home I ate a whole jar of Biscoff Spread with a spoon and told my husband the kids had eaten it all.

At the age of 37, I contrive to look like a sensible professional to those who don’t know me. But I am not. I cannot adult. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. And the more I meet people older than me, the more I realise they are no more wise or together than I am, but are simply bemused adolescents trapped in the body of a grown-up.

I may never master adulting. But do you know what? I am proud. I am proud I frequently make stupid mistakes and laugh at them, and I choose my friends because they do the same. I think I am a more human and relatable GP for it.

If you don’t recognise any of this because you have got adulting sorted, I take my hat off to you. But please do the rest of us a favour and keep it to yourself. Post some not-perfect photos on Facebook, nod along in sympathetic solidarity when I tell you how I had to shampoo the dog’s paws after he ran in his own poo around my kitchen.

Adulting, it turns out, is overrated.

Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull 




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Readers' comments (15)

  • That’s a ray of sunshine on a Monday morning. Thank you Zoe.

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  • Any tips for how to recover your dignity in a consultation after you've fallen off a chair? Asking for a friend......

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  • When she is a bit older but not a better GP, will she still be criticising middle age and male? or just everyone who is middle aged including herself?

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  • Fabulous. I thought it was just me!

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  • Feeling much more normal after reading this! Feel like I've constantly got 6 balls in the air... And I am terrible at juggling.

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  • Go girl ! You are not alone:))

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  • I fell off my chair once during a consult. You’ve got to laugh at yourself sometimes.

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  • Adulting begins at sixty - twenty years a kid, 20 years pretending to be an adult, another 20 years preparing and then you’re there - Adult - only to find it’s actually like the first 20 years - fewer responsibilities and certainly less fear of mucking things up! Goodbye imposter syndrome, I’ve been there done that and if that’s not good enough for you - TOUGH !! You know you’ve arrived when you can truly laugh at yourself when the others are falling off their chair having fallen off yours and not caring you don’t know all the answers and openly use Dr Google for advice!

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  • Once walked into a waiting room and instead of calling the patients name I clearly called out ‘ chest X-ray ! ‘
    Obviously a scatty day -one of many ! Glad it’s not just me Zoe !

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  • It had been snowing heavily ,I went to work in slippers .Morning surgery went well ,patients tthought I was sensible “changing my boots into slippers”.Had to visit a 90 yr old lady.I apologised for turning up in slippers.She was very understanding “ that’s alright dear when you get to our age,these things happen .I was 55 at the time .

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