Day 6 – Consultations in the Countryside

Week 2 began with a rather shorter journey to a rural GP practice in County Antrim to see the ins and outs of country life and healthcare provision. It was a contrast to my previous GP placements, which have both been in central Belfast where knowledge of tractors and the farming forecasts is rather less important! The Assembly have produced a document detailing what they see as the key health issues affecting rural communities, available at . I split my day between the reception area, the treatment room and the GP’s surgery, all of which offered a different insight into the clinical environment.

A Monday morning in a GP surgery is certainly a good wake up call for the week, with the phone lines not pausing to draw breath and all the health care professionals equally busy. A few things in particular struck me about today, and have given me food for thought. The GP I was with had been off on leave for the two weeks prior to today, but his list was completely filled with patients who had waited longer to have an appointment in order to see him, who they trusted. This loyalty shows the importance, particularly for rural GPs, of building a relationship with your patients in order to ensure that they are open and honest in giving you their history, to enable you to make an accurate diagnosis. In general, the rural community is accepted to be more close knit than that in urban areas, and GP practices are smaller, giving the doctors the opportunity to get to know their patients, and also their parents and their children – these GPs truly are ‘family doctors’.  In his consultations, the atmosphere clearly reflected the fact that this GP has more than a purely paternal, ‘in-out-let’s find out what’s wrong’ relationship with his patients, and that obviously means a lot to them.

One patient I saw in the treatment room was having their dressing on a leg ulcer changed. They admitted it was initially a simple cut which they had neglected, but now, six months later, they are still receiving treatment for it. I imagine this kind of situation is not uncommon among farmers, who like those I met last week, may be more inclined to ignore ailments until they reach a level beyond which they can no longer be ignored.

On returning home tonight, I saw on the news that a man died over the weekend in Co. Tyrone in a farming accident ( . This brought home the reality of the dangers involved in farming which we learnt about last week ( – they are not something to be taken lightly, they are very real, and tonight have left a family grieving. My thoughts are with the family of the man involved. It also shows me how important this module is, through highlighting to me, as a future healthcare provider, the unique risks and challenges farmers face, with hope that in the future some of these may be mitigated.


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