Freddie Mercury is singing ‘The Show Must Go On’ in my head; it could be the doctor’s theme tune. Dragging ourselves in to work, rain or shine, sputum or snot, dead or alive; because someone’s got to see those patients, and you can’t magic up a locum at five minutes notice.
I plough through a tough morning with a raging cold, and all things considered feel I’m managing pretty well – so it’s a total shock to get a complaint two weeks later, on the basis of having been obviously too ill to see patients and, as a corollary, inadequately empathic. Not complaining about my medical management, you understand; just about my being sicker than she was. She came to see me specially to tell me this, at which point my new theme tune became ‘It’s my Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To’.
If this is my Desert Island Discs compilation, I have six to go, and it’s a tough choice. First place has to go to the song I hum under my breath when I survey the heaving waiting room half-way through the duty doc morning – ‘Although no one understood, there were more of them than us, we were holding back the flood, now we’ll never dance again…’
And obviously ‘Doctor, Doctor, can’t you see I’m burning, burning’ was my backdrop to the flu season, with ‘Under Pressure’ running a close second.
The one I can’t have is ‘Nellie The Elephant’ as it instantly brings back the taste of a drowned man’s sick on a sandy beach. But ‘Stayin’ Alive’ works fine, for those on both sides of the CPR.
Medication reviews are ‘Just Like A Pill’ (instead of makin’ me better you keep makin’ me ill) - or should I have ‘Paracetomoxyfrusebendroneomycin’?. And ‘Comfortably Numb’ is the 6.30pm feeling when the patients have gone and you can finally start on the paperwork, except you’re so brain dead by then that all you do is stare at the letters and none of it makes any sense.
Which takes me to my final choice. This is difficult. It should be the best, naturally, as it’s the one everybody will remember you by; vanity therefore demands it must be beautiful and poignant and subtly intellectual. ‘Ode to Joy’ would tick a lot of boxes, but it’s just too sad these days.
A worrying amount of the time at work I find myself quietly singing ‘Who Wants to Live Forever?’, but I realise it’s a bit of a downer to go out on. There must be something that covers the times when the doctor is sicker than the patients, when life itself seems to be taking the mickey, when you’re running on will power alone and only the support of the good and the dear and the kind is keeping you going.
What should be the doctor’s theme tune for work, and for life in general come to that? A song for when the patients are sick and you’re not sure how to cope, or you’re worrying in case you did the wrong thing or said the wrong thing or wrote the wrong thing, when the trolls are out, when there are too many clinics and not enough caffeine, when home life is crazy and work life is frantic?
I’m pondering this for a long while; and then, on another tough day, I realise; on a day when the cups of tea keep appearing as if by magic, when my visits are all quietly done for me, when it seems to be open season for hugs; then it becomes obvious what the last disc has to be, must have always been for all of us in this trade. But of course. Always. I keep going, I get by, ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’.
Felicitas Woodhouse is a GP, who writes under a pseudonym.
Which songs sum up your working life? Use the comments section below
From Radiology:’ Nobody know’s the trouble I’ve see’.
Chumbawumba "Tub thumping" chorus of "I get knocked down, but I get up again" (and the verses about taking a drink seem relevant too!)
I don’t like Mondays
Regarding the rather frequent desire to quit med school/this profession: "Medicine" by Daughter
Good post, thanks for sharing the article
<a href="shellshockers-io.com">shell shockers</a>
Complicated by Avril Lavigne
"Everybody Hurts" by REM