Afternoon Surgery

by Nick Harper

The patient walked in looking terribly thin,
I thought what's the matter? She ought to be fatter!
Her father's a drunk, her mother obese,
If they'd all die tomorrow at least there'd be peace!

She said she was sad,
School was quite bad.
I find maths quite tricky,
Which is a bit of a pity.

I told her to eat more and not be so silly,
If I were that thin I'd be really quite chilly.
As far as the maths goes,
well I mean - who knows?

I tried hard to listen,
All I could see was my watch glisten!
The patient walked out looking really quite frisky,
I opened my drawer for a slug of some whiskey.

Another bang on the door,
Oh God what a bore!
Who's this next cripple?
All I want is a tipple.

Come and sit down,
Why that big frown?
He mumbled on with description,
I just reached for my pad and wrote a prescription!

Half past four and a ring on the phone,
Mustn't be long, need to get home,
Book the appointment,
Will give him some ointment,
And try not to let him delay me!

His pain in the back is my pain in the neck,
If he'd just lose some weight, he'd not be a wreck.

If I had my say I'd sit here all day,
Dreaming away of some tropical beach

My head in the clouds,
My feet in the sand,
Oh what a way to spend my hundred grand!!!!!!

Reflection

I wrote this poem to highlight some of the many coping strategies (or sometimes apparent lack of them!) medical professionals often employ to cope with the stresses and strains that their job entails. These could be good strategies that would be useful to incorporate in one's own life, or strategies which it would be advised to avoid. Some of these are apparent in the poem; others came through in the process of writing it.
Alcohol - The doctor in my poem clearly has an alcohol problem. One which is interfering with the care he delivers to patients. Because of this he sees them as a "bore" and a distraction away from his whiskey. Using alcohol as a strategy against stress sadly has a high incidence among health care professionals!

Eating - Briefly mentioned in the poem but of course plays a much larger role in society as a whole. Many eating disorders stem from seeing food as a comfort that will alleviate stress, or conversely as something which in a chaotic life can be easily controlled
Detaching - Throughout the surgery, the doctor in my poem is thinking of just about anything other than his patients: his watch, alcohol, getting home, holidays etc. This is of course an extreme example but I feel it brings up an important point. It is vital to have a life outside of work and things to look forward to. It is only by having the correct balance between work and social life (very much lacking in this poem) that you can truly have time to detach from work and "recharge your batteries" whilst maintaining, even improving the quality of care you deliver to your patients.

Reducing - "I told her to eat more and not be so silly". Reducing complex problems into one or two main causative agents is a dangerous process that is becoming ever more tempting in a world obsessed with precise science. In order to truly treat a patient, (the first in my poem is a good example of this) a more holistic approach must be undertaken to find the underlying problem which is leading to disease. i.e. "why has a patient developed tennis elbow?" Rather than "Which Cytokines are causing the inflammation?"
Humour - Humour is a very powerful tool in making us feel better and so long as it is created in good taste has few downsides! Writing this poem was a lot of fun and I hope that this comes through upon its reading. It certainly made me feel better.

There are many more coping strategies for stress that we all use or have available to us. These include, collaboration with friends/family, concentration on positives, seeking professional help etc etc. It is learning the combination of these methods which lead to a balanced, healthy and productive lifestyle that is the real goal.

Nick Harper, Whole Person Care.

Comments

Silas Webb

19 December 2012 - 18:30:23
"Really like you're poem as its so easy to read the rhythm flows nicely. Although it can be construed as comical the issues you address are very serious and your reflection echoes these sentiments. Definitely made me think about what my coping strategy will be,hopefully one from the last paragraph rather than the others!"

Jane Eccles

04 November 2018 - 09:15:04
"I really enjoyed reading this poem as it has made me reflect on the importance of doctor’s having a work-life balance and the potential threats that can arise if the balance isn’t maintained. What I found most striking was how the doctor’s well-being is at jeopardy, which subsequently is threatening the wellbeing of their patients, however the doctor masks the seriousness of the situation with humour. "

Jane Eccles

04 November 2018 - 09:15:06
"I really enjoyed reading this poem as it has made me reflect on the importance of doctor’s having a work-life balance and the potential threats that can arise if the balance isn’t maintained. What I found most striking was how the doctor’s well-being is at jeopardy, which subsequently is threatening the wellbeing of their patients, however the doctor masks the seriousness of the situation with humour. "

Jane Eccles

04 November 2018 - 09:24:05
"I really enjoyed reading this poem, as it made me reflect on the importance of doctor’s having a work-life balance and the potential threats that can arise if the balance isn’t maintained. What I found most striking was how the doctor’s well-being is at jeopardy, which subsequently is threatening the wellbeing of their patients, however the doctor masks the seriousness of the situation with humour. "