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Breaking down walls



I recently had the pleasure of being part of an ‘inter-professional conference’ during which I engaged in discussions and solved problems with students training in the fields that I will be working with throughout my career – nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy – to name a few. Whilst I was blissfully unaware of any preconceptions that I might have had about them prior to today, my eyes have well and truly been opened with regards to the existence of stereotyping in the healthcare setting.

Instead of coming to the table as an impartial member of the group who happens to be training to be a doctor, I felt very much like an outsider. Just my luck, the rest of the group had already met on an previous occasion – cue the giant brick wall that rapidly erected before my eyes. Having found out who I was, what I stood for and what I thought doctors brought to the healthcare setting, their straight faces turned to smiles. One student even said: ‘I’m really surprised at how holistic your attitude to healthcare is’. Another said: ‘Yeah, I always thought that all medics cared about was science and little else’.

The ‘doctor knows best’ attitude has been long replaced by ‘shared decision making’; we stopped wearing our white coats in 2007, and I am consistently taught to consider the ‘whole person’ as medical teaching moves away from viewing the body as a machine. So why then do I have to counter archaic stereotypes that I thought were near extinct in the healthcare setting? Are there still a small number of doctors who bring the rest of the profession into disrepute? Is it right that my fellow colleagues – be they healthcare assistants or management – should hold such misconceptions about me without even working alongside me first?

I am at a loss, as you might be able to see. I am disappointed too. What do you think? Is this really a fair reflection of the profession that I am soon to be part of? Do doctors still have something to prove?

Chantal Cox-George blogs from the perspective of a medical student interested in general practice. Use the hashtag #nextgenerationGP to join in the conversation and follow her @NextgenGP