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Talking career change

Talking career change

Dr Rupert Woolley dreams of swapping his stethoscope for the microphone

When life in general practice gets tough, and increasingly onerous ‘solutions’ are put forward by the Government, there is often talk of mass early retirement.

One question that springs to mind is what would GPs do instead? The answer is usually to remain as GPs but switch to locuming. Others are tempted by the come-hither look from big pharmaceutical companies or leave healthcare altogether.

But maybe we should look to other professions for inspiration. What do other people do when they retire at a young age? Let’s look at the professional sportsperson.

Sportspeople are usually past their prime by their mid-30s, leaving them with decades of working life still to fill. What do they do and can we as doctors learn from them?

Well, some go into training. But we require GPs to still be working to fulfil that role. Team management? In my experience, that work is best left to trained practice managers rather than GPs. Commentating and punditry? Now you’re talking!

After all, primary care is an Olympics, with the series of short sprints being the urgent surgery full of snotty children. Not to mention the endurance events of clearing your letters and pathology results.

So, one day, I quite fancy the idea of hanging up my stethoscope and picking up the microphone for a second life in the commentary box.

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‘Afternoon, everyone. You join us here at the Park Street Surgery grounds where we’re all watching a superb duty day innings take place. Dr Smith is deep into the afternoon session and putting on an absolutely remarkable performance.

‘Spectators hoping for a leisurely lunchbreak and trip to the bar behind the stand were disappointed as Dr Smith carried on, wolfing down his sandwich and a cold tea without even taking his gloves off.

‘He’s expertly dispatched a long list of coughing children with skilful use of his stethoscope. He’s been more cautious when needed, taking time over a challenging abdominal pain. And there was very impressive use of the tissues when tearful Terry appeared.

‘And as the clock ticks towards teatime, though fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for any kind of break in play, here comes the next patient running in from the waiting-room end. I say running, but it’s more of a slow Zimmer-frame-supported shuffle.

‘Dr Smith keeps his composure as she approaches. She pauses. One coat is removed… The second coat … A scarf… And now she’s riffling through her bag. The crowd goes quiet as the tension builds.

‘You can see Dr Smith glancing anxiously at the growing list of Docman letters on his second screen, but he needs to keep his focus here. With a flourish she produces a urine sample in a leaky old yoghurt pot, but Dr Smith knew what was coming. He responds immediately with a flick of the dipstick. Such a professional.

‘Don’t go anywhere, ladies and gentlemen. I suspect that Dr Smith will still be here deep into the evening session, and he really is a joy to watch.’

Dr Rupert Woolley is a GP partner in Pangbourne, Berkshire