Clinic used to full my heart with dread. There is no worse way to spend the afternoon than drinking vile coffee and seeing patients who were expecting the boss and instead get you, the trainee.
They look confused and clutch the letter, rummaging in their best handbag to produce a crumpled but precious appointment note with Mr Consultant. You are quite clearly not he.
Perhaps we should send them a note saying they will be seen by Mr BlahBlah’s team rather than the great man himself and therefore head off this disappointment. I used to feel sad at this as well and agree that they were probably quite right to be miffed at getting me and not the boss.
As a junior registrar I would often have to go and ask permission to put them on the waiting list or ask advice on which scan to request. They would look at their accompanying person in a slightly worried way, wishing (I imagined) that the man behind the adjoining door I kept disappearing behind would just make an appearance.
Now I sometimes actually enjoy clinic, even a busy overbooked clinic. A number of things have contributed to this, firstly I actually know what to do now, even for weird and unusual things and heart sink things (three years of vague pain with no cause found…) and I must somehow communicate that confidence to the patient as they don’t look worried. Clearly, I am also no longer “a girl” and not looking 23 anymore has helped considerably with my credibility.
One of my very great leaders, a professor of surgery, tells me that the goal of every ward round and clinic encounter is to make the patient smile. When he told me this I didn’t quite believe him but doing my clinic last week all of them were smiling when they left. Even the chronic pain one, who the first time I met her left me wanting to bang my head on the desk repeatedly. She arrived with a box of cakes to thank us.
One of my rules of clinic, which medical students would be wise to remember is that the patient has gone to considerable effort to be there. They have washed and dressed in anticipation of your examination and they have often involved family and incurred cost in getting to see you. They deserve in return that they are seen by a reasonably well dressed, clean and presentable surgeon.
No matter how much I enjoy a clinic I am always glad when it is over and the dictation is done on the three or so people who have failed to attend. I like to bring them back to clinic just in case there was some legitimate reason why they hadn’t come in today. OK, the real reason I tend to give them another chance is that the greatest joy in an overbooked clinic is when there are four no shows.