Why I’m not a doctor (yet)

Realisation of the weekend… I’m not a doctor.

Now if you’ve met me; read this blog; read my Tweets, you would be justified in thinking I was having one of my self-doubt “I can’t do this” moments.  Of course I’m a “doctor”: I go to work in a hospital; I treat children.  This week, I’ve seen ear infections, gastroenteritis, tonsillitis, gastroenteritis, bronchiolitis, more gastroenteritis, seizures… And did I mention the gastroenteritis?

I’ve prescribed antibiotics, fluids, and anti-epileptics; I’ve been coughed on, vomited on, sneezed on, and bled on (I love paediatrics); I’ve put in cannulas, felt bumps, looked at spots…

It sounds like doctoring, doesn’t it?

The ‘official’ definition of a doctor is “someone who is qualified to treat those who are ill”.  Which sounds great: I have a medical degree (MBBS); I have a shiny certificate that says that I’ve passed my membership exam in my chosen speciality (MRCPCH); I have regular appraisals, and an e-portfolio that I (kind of) keep updated.  Does that make me a doctor?

And then I found this definition too “a person… trained in the healing arts”

That sounds more like it.  That’s what I want to do. Not just treat the illness, but help with healing; support health.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

And yet… I’m not a doctor.  I go into hospital or clinic and I work for the first of those definitions.  I treat illnesses; I don’t help people heal.

On top of my list of things I’ve done at work, I’ve also done these things:

I’ve not listened to parent’s concerns because I was “treating” their child for an illness, instead of paying attention to what they were worried about in the first place.

I’ve taken some time to talk to parents about their child… whilst standing over them as they lay on the bed with their child, and then wondered why they sounded a bit annoyed…

That’s not doctoring.  That’s not healing, or supporting health, or any of the great things I want to think that I’m doing at work.

NHS Change Day has provoked a lot of comments over the past week or so, and a number of blogs about the types of pledges that are being made.  I want to pledge that I’m going to try and be a doctor, but I think that’s going to provoke the kind of response “well, shouldn’t you be doing that anyway”*

Yes: I should be doing all these things, but if I’m honest, then I’m not.

So what now? Do I stop, and realise that actually I’m terrible at this doctoring thing?  Sometimes, it feels like that.  But I’m taking some comfort from the realisation that I’m paying more attention to these things, which is surely the first step towards making them better?

Doctoring is a skill that develops, and we keep learning.  That’s well recognised from the “treating illness” side of things – that’s the point of appraisal, and assessments, and reviews, and CPD.  Learning how to be a doctor is an ongoing process too, but there isn’t a course that’s going to teach me how to do that.

I want to be a doctor… and I’m not. But I hope I might get to be one day.  What NHS Change Day is doing is teaching me how I can get there.

* Plus, it’s vague and not terribly useful to me or anyone else; I need a manual of how to do it, not a grandiose statement.


One thought on “Why I’m not a doctor (yet)

  1. Pingback: Why #NHSChangeDay (almost) made me late for work… | PaediAcademiatrician

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