The Doctor’s working day: Your GP

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Most doctors work long hours. Whether in a GP practice, in a hospital clinic or ward setting doctors tend to be on their feet a lot and required to carry out a wide variety of tasks. Some doctors work in more technical areas such as Xray, scanning or pathology departments and each of these has its demands and pressures.

Understanding what a doctor’s day can entail makes the system more understandable and helps you learn how to get the best out of it.
There is no point for example going to a clinic early if the doctors are looking at patients on the ward for this designated time. There is no point expecting to see a doctor one day if that is his/her day to do a clinic in a neighbouring town.

A General Practitioners Working Day

A typical GP’s day will encompass all or most of the following.

The working day extends from about 8am to 6.30pm which means 10 and a half hours.
The day starts on arrival at the Practice with a sheaf of information about patients who have been seen during the previous evening or night by other covering doctors or the “out of hours” service. Information needs to be entered into the relevant patient’s notes concerning what happened, were they admitted to hospital and where or are they at home needing a phone call or a visit?
Then attention turns to the day’s correspondence…. letters from hospital consultants giving their opinion and advice. Again this information needs to be put in the patient’s notes and action taken….does the patient need to be asked to come in for a change of medication or life-style advice?
Meantime the phone and the email may be delivering test results….x-ray reports, blood test results….these need to be initialled to show they have been seen, noted in the patient’s dossier and action taken as necessary…..repeat in a week, start antibiotic, refer to specialist?

All that usually takes the first hour and then from about 9am to 12noon there are the routine appointments…. ten minutes per patient if possible….seeing about 20 in that time, or many more since Covid.
Then there is the “emergency” clinic. Patients who need to be seen because they are acutely unwell 12-1pm Then a sandwich working lunch with colleagues to discuss the morning home visits, a particularly difficult patient problem or an administrative issue.
Afternoon surgery means another 20-25 patients followed by the necessary administration….referral letters to consultants for the patients just seen etc.
Around 5pm the hospital lab will send over the day’s results for patients on anti-coagulants. Since the advent of the newer anticoagulants, fewer people now take Warfarin and need to be monitored.
By about 6.30 pm the main work of the day is over but some paperwork may be outstanding and need to be finished at home.

Most of the day has been filled with decisions: many of them small but some of them rather important. Decision-making is tiring and at the end of the day it shows.
It’s not surprising that GPs are often rushed and stressed, is it?

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