Being a GP in the current Coronavirus world – Dr Amy Heales

Many people have asked me what it’s like being a GP in the current Coronavirus world. So I thought I’d write something to try and describe it ( and also for personal therapy… “journaling” I believe the professionals call it )

When I got home from work earlier in the week, and my husband asked how my day was, I honestly couldn’t describe it. It doesn’t happen often, but I couldn’t find the words. So I just said “it’s indescribable”.

Later on that night while lying in bed, I thought of the patients I had seen in the day. My first patient was the manager of a local grocery store. Stress level through the roof as you can imagine. I don’t know how she was managing to keep it together to be honest!

Next, I saw a young mum with a new bub who told me about what social distancing meant for her. Basically, she was stuck at home and feeling more isolated than what she already was with a newborn. Her mother’s group had been cancelled, birthday parties cancelled, she decided it was too risky to go to the shops.

But probably the thing she was most sad about was not visiting her mum and dad. She wanted to protect her parents from getting sick. I encouraged her and assured her she was doing the right thing.

I saw three patients with sore throats who were worried about Coronavirus. I told them the risk is low but unfortunately we can’t test you. So you must stay at home until you are well.

I haven’t worn a mask for 6 years, but I wore a mask for half the day… I apologised profusely to my patients because I felt like it broke down our communication. But everyone was ok with it.

My lovely 75 year old patient came in and told me she had a fever 2 weeks ago, and a cough and was still feeling tired. She had stayed at home since she first got sick to be cautious and was wondering how much longer she had to stay there. I sadly told her she had to stay inside until she was well. I knew this patient didn’t have family nearby so I asked her if someone could drop her some supplies if she was in need. She told me her neighbours had been checking on her and would help her out thank goodness. I’m going to call her later in the week and see how she’s going.

I had a lady who told me all their bookings for their family owned business had been cancelled for the coming months so they had no income. One lady asked me if she should go to a funeral for a friend.. I had to say no. My patient who was already struggling with anxiety told me she was really not coping at the moment.

Every patient in my day had a story.. A worry. A concern. A corona related question..
The hardest part for me was not being able to answer them all with clear cut answers. Medicine is sometimes black and white , and sometimes medicine is grey. And this corona thing is well and truly parked in the grey area. For a little while at least.

Still not sure how to describe it all but there is a few things that stand out. Firstly, how much appreciation I have for my colleagues. Our receptionists, our nurses, our practices managers and fellow doctors. And everyone out there in GP land who I know is going through the same stuff as us. It’s the small things we do every day that will “Flatten the curve”. We got this!

I felt really privileged to be in the position to help people to make sense of this crazy world at the moment. It’s hard to do this when, as doctors , we aren’t sure what’s going on and things are constantly changing.

But I educated my patients on self isolation, on symptoms, on testing, on protecting the elderly, on infection control. I reminded them about being aware of their mental health and the seek help if they are feeling anxious or depressed. We had minimal training in how to deal with a pandemic at medical school, so I’m sort of just winging it and hoping I’m making a difference.

While every patient I saw today had a different story or concern, one thing was constant among them- not one of them complained. Not one took offence to me wearing a mask, or asking them to wash their hands. I went first and then it was their turn. And then we laughed a little at how crazy it all was…

Thank you to all of these wonderful patients for your kindness and your understanding. It goes a long way and is greatly appreciated. Spread that kindness far and wide, god knows we need it at the moment!

In this crazy time, when words can’t be found to describe how we are all feeling, it was the words from one of my patients on that day that stuck with me…

I said “I’m so sorry I have to wear a mask today and sit so far away” …

And she replied.. “Don’t worry Dr Heales, we are all in this together”

And I thought- never was a truer word spoken.

We are all in this together 💙