Usually, when I write something, I have a bit of an idea where I’m going.
An event or an issue comes up. Maybe something I’ve heard. Something you’ve written to me, about.
Facts are always interesting. Checking them, even more so.
Today… well, I’m not sure. I guess the rule is; start at the beginning. So, let’s go right back to the beginning.
Why do people come into this unholy trade. Why do they commit themselves in a way that it is hard to think about another trade or profession, that asks quite as much.
Makes so many demands.
Doctors, in particular.
I can’t think of doing anything that is so satisfying. What could be better than giving someone their life back? Is there anything better than giving back mobility, independence, confidence?
I’d guess, like all work, over time, it becomes repetitive, a bit humdrum? One hip, much like another. One wheezy chest, much like another.
The joy in seeing someone see again. Like The Duchess, when she had her cataract operations.
My Dad with his new aortic-valve. ‘Listen to it clunk’, he’d say.
Big moments in people’s lives.
Big moments like giving the ‘all-clear’.
Big moments giving bad news, gently, thoughtfully, at a pace the poor soul sitting in front of you, can manage.
Big moments like a course of pills, or a prescription that does the trick.
Big moments when the little things become the big things.
Big moments for someone getting back to function, back to work, back to looking after the kids.
And, doctoring kids. I don’t have to go there, do I?
People who do these jobs; deal with disaster and joy in ten minute segments.
What does it do to them?
Do they become annealed to human suffering? Do they just absorb it? At times like these, can they leave the surgery, the practice, the operating theatre, the outpatients’ clinic, knowing whatever they have done in their day, there will be more tomorrow.
Knowing it will never be enough and as much as they have done, there will be twice, thrice, more that is left undone.
Knowing they have shared a secret we dare tell to no one but the doctor.
Knowing the futility of their knowing.
Doctors are just like us.
They may have qualifications we don’t. To achieve their ambitions they may have put up with miserable conditions, on rotation, at Trusts that shouldn’t employ a scrapyard dog… but they did it.
They did it to satisfy something deep inside, that they would probably find hard to describe.
Maybe doctoring’s in the family? Maybe an ambition born of circumstance or experience. But…
Doctors are like us.
They get their shopping at a supermarket, visit the petrol station, take their kids to school, worry about the price of everything, the state of the government, the cricket, the football, Putin, Ukraine, global warming, the price of chips, did they pick up the car-keys and where are they.
Just like us… and sometimes, just like us, it becomes too much.
The relentless scrutiny. The risk of a wrong decision. The precariousness of misinterpretation, overlooking something. Reduced to tears of exhaustion, anguish and bewilderment. The frustration of not being able to do what they know would be their best. The culture of blame.
Just like us, sometimes it becomes too much.
Globally, doctors have a higher suicide rate than the general population. Women doctors have about three-times the risk of men.
The UK is not unique.
The current rate of suicide, amongst doctors, is now around one a week, up from one every three weeks, only a while ago.
Nurses are around the same rate. Few of us, with an inkling of the future, would bet against the numbers getting worse.
There is an organisation…
… run by a thoughtful and caring man, whose brother, a doctor, overcome with anxiety, worry and pressure of work found the unfathomable courage, to prefer the uncertainty of what might be next, to the certainty of another day… being overwhelmed.
It’s called Doctors in Distress.
They’ve already helped over 2,500 healthcare professionals avoid despair and disaster; Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, Paramedics, NHS Managers and more, with their mental health.
They know they must help more. They need money, support and most important, awareness… that they exist, are there and ready.
Have a look, talk about them, tell people, see what they do.
You might be able to help and…
…it’s OK to need help.
News and Comment from Roy Lilley
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