Nurses, Orderlies, Blogs and Bonds

Yesterday I opened my inbox and discovered perhaps one of the best emails I have ever received. The author was Professor Max Kamien, respected GP elder and local RACGP Corlis Fellow, who wrote to me after coming across one of my old self-entitled rants blog posts. His words were both humorous and wise, and I would like to thank him very much for his insightful counsel. I am publishing the email with his kind permission, and I think you’ll all agree that he would make a very promising blogger! It seems that old dogs and young pups have a lot to learn from each other.

By Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada (Old Bicycle  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (]

By Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Penny,

This morning I was doing my Corlis thing drinking coffee with 2 blokes from a small wheat belt town. One has a daughter who wants to be a doctor. He reckons his daughter should be given a leg up because:

1. He gave 25 sheep to the Country Medical Foundation Appeal in 1988.

2. He is a volunteer ambulance driver.

3. His town of 403 souls has not had a GP in eons.

“But”, the father said: “She has some Afgan blood in her, y’know”. I replied that things were looking up. And if she has camel drivers’ genes, she must also have Aboriginal genes. “ Yeh, all that stuff ” he murmured. I wanted to tell him she was a shoe-in. But we Corlis fellows are old enough to always err on the side of caution. So I stated that providing she got reasonable grades in her BSc she had a good chance of getting in.

There was a young lady at the next table who appeared to be eavesdropping on our conversation in between texting on her i-phone, skyping on her iPad and reading Murtagh 5th ed. I remarked to her that a doctor who could multi-skill like her would have little trouble coping with hospital residencies and ED.

She glanced at the 50 year old bike that I use when I go to City Beach where villains steal bicycles. She noted my lustreless eyes, 3 days growth of beard, compost and worm casting stained and smelly T-shirt and dirty fingernails and asked “Are you a hospital orderly?”

I told I used to be. I didn’t say that was in 1954 at RPH. Nor did I say that I got fired for side swiping the matron and head orderly with my trolley on the dog-leg of the downhill ramp on the way to Ward 9. The demure Eurasian nurse on the trolley survived-the side swipe and the threat of sacking- and married a first year resident doctor whose status was more than a match for one who had yet to pass first year. (I had to do a supp in Botany prac. I just could not cut sections with a cut-throat razor. That is, sections thin enough to allow the passage of sunlight reflected by a mirror up my Australian made wholesale microscope).

The marriage did not last. Nor did that doctor’s next two marriages and three engagements. Forty years later I had to fire that doctor for refusing to chew Stimarol to disguise the smell of alcohol and tobacco that emanated from his person after going home for his midday meal. Within a week he was the Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Corrections. Two years later he died from bleeding oesophageal varices. His 6 women all came to his funeral and then retired together to their own private wake. Their doctor-man was arty, intelligent and vulnerable. Women wanted to mother him.

This preamble is to inform you:

1. That not only can you be mistaken for a nurse but even a (venerable) medical elder can be mistaken for an orderly. Hospitals cannot function without orderlies. But they could function without residents and, they already do so in the absence their venerable consultants. So what is wrong with being mistaken for a person of a different occupation?

2. That I want to learn how to write a blog (as per the above) and then one that will be picked up by the Huffington Post and I think you will be an admirable tutor. The chief drawback may be that I use the same mobile phone as Rupert Murdoch.

3. I would like to talk with you about bonding (of the medical student type)and the penalties for breaking the bond. I wonder if they are illegal. Also I would like to put my oar in and make it yet another of my crusades. So when in Perth with a couple of spare hours please send me an email or phone and we can arrange to discuss these issues over a lesser WA priced cup of coffee.

Best wishes,

PS The lady at the next table is a doctor from Columbia. People from the small wheat belt town rarely meet a professor and think it is cool. They are unaware that at UWA and the other universities nearly everyone is now a professor. One of my country companions blew my cover with an uncomfortable amount of hyperbole.  Corlis ethics and etiquette dictate that I will now be tutoring the Columbian doctor for the AMC exams.

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