The last week of my pathway was GP week. I was quite lucky with my GP placement as it was only a 15 minute walk from my house. Many people I know have horrible train journeys and bus journeys as they have been scattered around the county. We go in ones and twos to a GP's for a week where we should in theory have at least three of our own clinics where we get to see patients. I have signed up to a pilot scheme where I stay at this GP surgery for the next two years, so I'm doubly glad it's not difficult to get to! I figured if I got to know the GP better they would let me do more things as they would trust me more. It also means I am supposed to have a few patients I follow over the two years to experience what it is like to live with a chronic disease over time.
I turned up to the first day of my placement to find I would be observing the Doctor for the morning clinic, but apart from that the rest of the week I had my own clinics. 7 clinics, full of patients, all booked to see me. Mind blown. :) I even get my own little ( and I mean tiny) room that says Doctor on the door. It's a tiny little practice, run by one Doctor, with one other GP that job shares. The lead GP's wife is the Practice Nurse, and then there's one other nurse and a phlebotomist. It's in an inner city, rough/poor-ish suburb mainly full of students and pubs and so quite a different population to the idyllic country practice I was in last year.
And boy did I notice the change in patients. It seemed like every one of them was there to be treated for depression. I saw students, new mothers, Russian housewives, alcoholics, heroin addicts... all for depression. There were a few ear infections and an eight year old with "tummy ache" that was actually bullying at school, but mostly I saw mental health issues. It was so draining. I feel completely out of my depth dealing with mental health patients. I just don't know the questions to ask. It's not that I don't think depression is an illness, because I do. And it's not that I can't empathise, because if I'm honest I think I have depressive tendencies myself that I try and bury behind a smile or some loud happy music. It's more that I don't know how to approach it. I can do a basic SOCRATES, family history, social history, drugs and medications, ideas, concerns and expectations history for diseases or injuries, but it just doesn't seem to fit for mental health issues. Plus I can't help feeling that whilst I am privileged to hear your story, hardships and innermost feelings, you should be telling this to your actual Doctor, building that relationship and trust as this is a long term issue you need to work on together. Mental health is my last block, which may explain why I feel so uncomfortable dealing with it as I haven't had the training yet. I definitely puts me off being a GP though. I like to be able to fix you and send you away happy quickly, and you can't really do that with mental health issues.
I get given half an hour with my patients to take a history and then send a message to the GP's computer to come in and hear my presentation, impression and management plan. I tended to run ahead of time though, so often he gave me some of his emergency patients to see to fill in. One in particular I was a little wary of, as a massive violent patient notification came up on the screen. As I mentioned, my room was very tiny and I had not yet found the panic button in it. I'm only a small thing and I was at the end of the corridor not backing onto anything if I were to yell for help. I put on a brave smile and called him from the waiting room. It turned out he had been in a fight at the weekend when some youths had set on him and his girlfriend. He'd knocked one of them out and they'd hit him, but the police had only been interested in the damage he did them and hadn't taken any photos of the injuries he sustained. He wanted them checking out and photographing and had been let out of house arrest with an electronic tag especially to come and see me. When I pushed the button to tell the GP I was ready, he sent back an 'acknowledged, 2 mins' reply, meaning his consultation wasn't finished yet. The patient had gotten himself a little worked up re-telling the story and I wasn't too happy the GP wasn't coming immediately. I managed to distract him by talking about hobbies from his past and it turns out he used to be a keen gymnast so we were discussing him possibly taking up coaching to give him something productive to do since he couldn't find a job. The GP burst into the room suggesting the patient might like to wait in the waiting room until he was ready to see us both, presumably assuming the patient had become violent and I wasn't safe, which was lovely of him, and reassuring for any future similar scenarios. I said we were fine and we continued chatting. I was so proud of myself. It was a situation I didn't want to take on, with a challenging patient and it gave me so much confidence to talk to different types of people and handling myself in difficult situations.
I did enjoy my week as a GP though, which is just as well as I have many more weeks there to come. It is a nice practice, with friendly staff and a nice way of working. I got a lot from it, even though one of those things was a firm decision that I definitely don't want to be a GP.