26th March 2020
As the Corona crisis deepens and we brace ourselves for the inevitable storm, it has been hard to ignore the call to arms. 15,000 retired doctors already contacted to re-join the troops. There is no escape from the emails from every angle…the RCGP, the BMA, the GMC, all asking me to sign up.
And the guilt continues to pile up thicker and faster (not that there wasn’t enough of that already).
It is hard to accept that in actual fact, I am not needed, or wanted, right now.
I responded to the call. I contacted my oncologist, checked with my defence union, spoke to my partners. Switched on my work emails, only to discover the full extent of the extraordinary levels of battle preparations going on both in primary and secondary care. The collaboration and collective will from the profession to get through this war in one piece is incredible and impressive.
The truth of the matter though, as hard as it is to admit, is the NHS is better off without me currently.
If I work, in any capacity, the practice will lose the locum cover. A funded, on the ground, replacement is clearly better than a reduced capacity, probably not entirely mentally stable, remotely working, me.
And to really hammer home the message that this GP is not wanted right now, my practice manager reclaimed my laptop this week. There are simply not enough to go round for other practice staff who are capable of working from home, and need to do so because of their “vulnerable” status in this crazy, new coronavirus infected world.
Divine intervention? Perhaps. To someone with a superwoman complex however, this is yet another blow. And there have been quite a few in recent months.
But if I am completely honest with myself, (and this is the real struggle for me), I am not ready to go back. I’ve not come to terms with either the diagnosis or the whole crappiness of the year-long preamble. I’ve started work on this now but I think it is going to be a complex business. There is no quick fix to this rather messed up situation.
It is very uncomfortable sitting on the side lines at a time like this. It goes against every GP fibre in my body and it hurts, especially when not a day goes by without another email request to sign up to the cause. Every one, yet another reminder of how my GP colleagues are going to be placed under immense pressure in the coming weeks. I would normally be leading the charge from the front in any other circumstance. I feel totally inadequate, useless and impotent. Simply not up to scratch.
There is also the rather terrifying realisation that there is going to be no “easing back” in to the job when I do go back. I’m going to be expected to pick up the pieces when my colleagues are worn out and in need of a well-earned break. And they will have every right to that expectation.
I guess what I need right now is permission to sit this one out for the time being. I keep being told this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. Corona is going to be around for a good while yet. The tsunami is coming, but the effects are going to be felt for months if not longer. Maybe my role will be in the aftermath of this disaster.
I suppose what I am asking for in all this talk of war right now, is permission to be treated more as a conscientious objector, rather than be judged as a deserter.
But I am afraid of judgement.
So who do I need the permission from? Who do I fear judging me the most? My family? Friends? Colleagues? The medical profession as a whole?
I think we all know the answer to that…it’s me.
The superwoman cape remains in the wardrobe for the time being. Maybe it is time to heed the adage “physician heal thyself”. Easier said than done but perhaps this doctor just needs to be a patient right now.