When a GP goes to his GP

The last time I went to a doctor, he looked like this

The last time I went to a doctor, he looked like this

I went to my GP this year. Apparently patients do that sort of thing all the time, but it felt odd, giving over the swivel chair. I hadn’t realised the degree of power inferred by a collared shirt and castor wheels.

I felt more comfortable going to someone I didn’t know; a bit of professional distance is handy—I figured about nine suburbs should do it.

The surgery was a lovely, refurbished Queenslander, and I hid around the corner of the balcony waiting room, hoping no-one would recognise me. I even resisted the urge to leave a few business cards on the chair for any patients looking for a change.

My GP didn’t know me, which suited me fine. Surprising, actually, that he hadn’t heard of my professional reputation around Brisbane. Nor read a single one of my articles. Just how I wanted it. Not even a friend of a respected colleague? No? No worries. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone quite so many suburbs.

For the first time ever, I can write unimpeded by patient confidentiality. Mine was an absolutely fascinating case actually, so I’ll waste no time in telling you. Let me rephrase that: I’ll waste no time in telling you.

But I will say this: it took quite some weeks of symptoms to get me there. See, I’m the opposite of a hypochondriac. Almost a hyperchondriac. I’m not so much a stoic, but lazily steeped in the doctor’s tradition that illness is something that happens to other people.

Yep, I’m a perennial optimist, which also explains why my preferred career as a novelist never took off—unlike Dostoevsky, I can never think of anything meaningfully depressing to say.

Anyway, we optimists like to be liked, so I tried to be the perfect patient. I gave a succinct history of the presenting complaint then filled in the rest of the gaps; medications (nil); allergies (nil); social life (nil, although I name-dropped a few Brisbane specialists I wished I hung out with).

That was all in response to his first open-ended question and, oddly, he didn’t ask a second.

So I lightly sprinkled in some doctor-doctor jokes—very apt—then put my arms by my side without being asked during the abdominal examination. Even stopped talking when he took out his stethoscope, although why anyone listens to bowel sounds is beyond me. Nonetheless, I believe I succeeded in making my colon sound soothing.

My diagnosis? I can’t wait to tell you! Let me rephrase that: I can’t wait to tell you.

But I do have time to tell you I returned this month with a more straightforward complaint: a swollen left knee.

I pointed out that since we both hoped to fix it quickly, we had joint aspirations. He told me to stop talking.

First published in Medical Observer, June 2015

About Dr Justin Coleman

Justin is a GP in Brisbane and Director of Education for GPs in the NT. He edits a medical journal and two medical textbooks, and is a medical writer and educator. Further details at https://drjustincoleman.com/
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9 Responses to When a GP goes to his GP

  1. fnmyalgia says:

    The Litmans test is useful in such situations – wearer of the most expensive stethoscope controls the conversation.


  2. Andrew Cartwright says:

    Did you have a PR? A great way of enlarging the circle of your friends


  3. jfbuckley1 says:

    Thanks Justin

    Bowing to your superior writing skills, superior joke subtlety (and not as well) or even both:-

    I did not get why the re-stating was labelled re-phrasing? I suspect it is some joke subtlety I missed and would love to be enlightened.

    I also want to chat about small band possibilities for GPTQ conference, if that is OK



    • I like to think that you simply haven’t attained my high level of wit John, although more likely I simply messed up.
      To tease it out (thereby also ruining any last semblance of humour), both phrases can be read in two different ways, with almost opposite meanings.
      Various wits have had the quote attributed to them: “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book. I shall waste no time in reading it.” Both of my sentences were written with a similar ambiguity in mind.
      Now I’ve ruined it, yes, please do contact me re the band!


  4. Darrell Giles says:

    Justin limped into the doctor’s office and said, “Doc, my right knee hurts so bad, I can hardly walk!”

    The doctor slowly eyed him from head to toe, paused and then said, “Justin, just how old are you?”

    “48,” ustin announced proudly.

    The doctor just sighed, and looked at him again. . .

    Finally he said, “Sir, I’m sorry. I mean, just look at you. You’re practically 50 years old, and you’re complaining that your knee hurts? Well, what did you expect?”

    Justin said, “Well, my other knee is 48 years old too, and it don’t hurt!”


  5. Monique Keel says:

    You are doing better than me J. I went to the GP yesterday for my post 40, 5-yearly blood test to check my sugar levels now that Lindt is so damn cheap, only to be told that I had had them done only a few months ago, with a follow up letter of good health to boot.
    ‘Doc’ I said, let me rephrase that, ,,, ‘I have just come in for my nearly-50 years old memory test….”

    How does one have no recollection of a GP visit??? She obviously doesn’t have enough Dad Jokes to make it memorable.


  6. Quackling says:

    I can relate with what you’re saying (eg. fitting history with diagnosis). Doctors don’t make good patients, or at least we’re reluctant patients!


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