Monday, 25 January 2016

Small Talk

A recollection from the beginning of clinical years, when you're supposed to be seen and not heard:

I'm sitting in on a consultation with a doctor and a patient, trying my best to observe. That's what I'm here to do, just silently watch the situation and hopefully absorb information. I'm to stay as quiet as possible and watch as they re-enact a normal consultation i.e. pretend I'm not there.

Suddenly the doctor realises they need something and they leave the room.  Once the doctor exits, it's just me and the patient. Up until this moment, the consultation has been between doctor and patient. There's a familiarity and an understanding, each knows which role they play. I, on the other hand, have just been sat in the corner trying to be invisible. When the doctor leaves I'll suddenly become visible and the patient's attention will switch from the doctor and quickly hone in onto the only other living thing in the room, me.

There are 10 seconds for the consultant or registrar to reach the door before I have to come up with a conservation starter. I'm mentally flicking through the different options: weather, kids, job. Children are an easy subject as parents can talk extensively about them and I don't mind listening. 

It may sound like I don't enjoy talking to patients, which is untrue. Some of the best anecdotes have come from times when I've been taking blood or a history. But it's hard to get a proper conversation going in the minute it'll take for the doctor to return. Then it's cut short and the consultation resumes, and we all go back to playing our previous roles.

Maybe that's just me?

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