“Oh You’re a Doctor! Would You Mind Just Having a Look at This Rash…?”

I seriously considered lying about my job; pretending I was a retail salesperson or a primary school teacher. Something self-explanatory that wouldn’t invite too much polite inquiry or encourage technical discussion from a genuine expert in the field. Alas I am a terrible liar, and to maintain the pretence for any length of time would have been impossible for an open book like me.

No. To the well-meaning question, “so what do you do for work?”, I had to answer truthfully; I am a doctor. Luckily, the first night’s dinner revealed five nurses and fellow doctor among the group. Hooray! Safety in numbers! I began to relax into conversation and got to know my fellow travellers as we embarked on a bus tour of Southern Ireland.

Night two, and the inevitable happened.

I was enjoying a drink and tapping my toes to some local trad music at a lively small-town pub. A familiar face from the tour approached, “Now Penny, you might be able to help me with something.”

I laughed and replied “you’re not going to show me your rash or something, are you?” smiling apologetically for the cliched joke.

“Well actually I’ve got this terrible athlete’s foot…”

Dammit. Not a joke. I groaned inwardly and made appropriately non-committal, sympathetic murmurs. He persisted. “But my doctor’s prescribed this treatment and it’s not working.”

“Ah well, sometimes these things take time…” I shrugged my shoulders and turned back to the music.

He didn’t take the hint. “But I’ve been doing it for months already!” and, eventually, “What do you think I should do?”

A dozen legitimate replies to his unsolicited request bounced around inside my head: well I’m not your doctor; I can’t assess you properly; I’m not licenced to practice in Ireland; I’m too tipsy to be having this conversation; I don’t know your medical history; I can’t help you anyway… 

I settled on “DUDE! I’m on HOLIDAY”

He looked abashed, I felt mildly remorseful and my now empty glass of Guinness provided the perfect excuse to escape to the bar.

Perhaps next time I’ll have to prepare a fake back story as a professional bird watcher. That shouldn’t prompt too many questions, right?

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5 thoughts on ““Oh You’re a Doctor! Would You Mind Just Having a Look at This Rash…?”

  1. Brilliant ! Having just returned from 9 weeks in South America I struggled with this conundrum frequently…. Think the dude I’m on holiday response is perfect :). Will you patent it or may I use it for my next holiday ?

    • There is a variation on the theme – it has increasingly become the norm to address your GP by their first name in consult – after all we are all mates. Until they encounter you socially and start introducing you to everybody as “my doctor” and saying: “have you met Jim, Sally and, my doctor, Doctor Thinus”

      I know it is well intended but it gives me the pips – I don’t wag my title around when I am off-duty and I don’t appreciate someone else doing it for me

  2. It is around about that time that I hide my generalist tendencies under a carpet and tell them I am an intensivist.

    “I am not much use to you unless you are about to die.”

    To date the “end-of-the-bar-o-gram” has not suggested anyone with multi-organ failure.

    Then I generally give them a little talk about how important their GP is and tell them that being a good GP is the hardest job in medicine.

    I know its a little bit like having your cake, eating it, and being on a cake-free-diet all at the same time.

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