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Where's that ironing pile?

As MRCGP exam time looms nearer, our diarist shares his own special techniques for coping with exam stress

As MRCGP exam time looms nearer, our diarist shares his own special techniques for coping with exam stress

It's the crack of dawn and I'm woken by either the screaming infant (SI) or my drug-company alarm clock. The clock constantly self-tunes as governed by Swiss-generated multi-national RCT-standard precision.

I briefly and hopelessly wonder whether it can already be that time. The alarm clock sometimes malfunctions, SI never does. (Memo to self – need to get in touch with that rep – new clock or no more scripts*.)

It is exam time. Everyone knows this: every registrar, trainer and anyone coming within five feet of a registrar for longer than five minutes. This has therefore changed my daily ritual. I used to stumble towards the shower for a brief bout of singing. This is now preceded by bowing thrice in the direction of Princes Gate intoning morituri te salutamus.

Traditionally I would then search in vain for the shirt I supposedly ironed last night (leading to my theory that I dream about ironing and awake convinced I've done it). Now I have a full selection of crisp shirts (and some pants) because ironing is preferable to studying.

This is then followed by the struggle down the motorway to work. No change there. Did you know that there are three cars in Britain for every man, woman and child? Actually I made that up, but sometimes it feels like it.

And if there is anyone reading this who drives at 45mph in the right-hand lane of the motorway I have a message for you: don't. This is especially true now: every waking minute not spent behind the wheel, in front of a patient, my wife, or the SI could be spent studying.

Note that I say could. It's not just ironing that seems so appealing. Gardening, grouting, guttering and cleaning the oven with a toothbrush have taken on a new allure.

Of course the irony is that the greatest exam stress reliever is, actually, studying. I have experimented with drinking, video games and crossword puzzles. The only one that has been of any benefit is the drinking as I have made all kinds of new friends. I just can't remember their names.

The various study guides suggest that we learn from our patients. It has been a pleasant surprise to discover that my own learning has in turn helped patients. Diabetes? No problem. Heart failure? Sorted. Haemorrhoids? Take a seat and let me outline your options. Or maybe you would prefer to stand?

So, what do you think? Is there a remote possibility this exam may make us better doctors? Let's see if we pass first. Good luck to you all.

*This is a joke. I am not for sale or open to bribery. Besides, it would take more than a clock.

Dr Geoff Tipper is a GP registrar in Maidenhead, Berkshire

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