GP Work is Hard

One week of some GP locums and I am exhausted.

7b609ee5184afeee3a442d25e5549028I can spend 10 minutes per consultation if people have straight-forward tonsillitis or gastroenteritis.

But what about the parents who are hesitant about vaccinating? I need more than ten minutes to make an impact.

What about the woman whose pregnancy test was unexpectedly positive, and needs to discuss options? She might not have anyone else to discuss options with.

What about the myriad people with psychiatric illness? I need more than ten minutes to figure out if it’s depression, or if there is a history of hypomanic spells. Is it substance induced? Is there another general medical condition? Who can start someone on antidepressants after a ten minute consult?

And what about the worried well? The old people with children abroad, with a bag full of chronic medication, and stories of challenges as numerous as the stars.
My dad has a favourite piece of advice for new graduates. It goes something like this:

Remember that when you come into contact with a patient, you may be the only person that touches them that day. The only person that hears their voice, that looks into their eyes. Make sure your touch is a kind one.

“Expressive hand studies using various media”, Savannah7963, Conway High School.

General Practitioners are pushed for time (and push their locums for time) because it’s the only way they can make any kind of profit, really. I understand that. But that is not the family medicine that I was taught, and I’m having trouble finding the balance.


  1. Hi! Thanks for sharing. I know you’re based in South Africa, but I was wondering what you thought of this

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Hi – I don’t have access to the full article but I’m a big supporter of social media, provided patients are always protected. I think that many medical councils have overreacted to pretty benign use of social media. That’s as much as I can say at this point, though; but I’ll think on it some more.

  2. Charl says:

    As with everything I’m sure you will conquer and make a success of it.

    The Boy

  3. ackeldatter says:

    What The Boy said. Because, you are awesome.


  4. I have never understood why family medicine is so poorly paid and forced to rush so much for time. It is a ridiculously hard area of medicine, and 10-15 minutes per patient encounter isn’t anywhere near enough. Good luck with it, and know that you’re not alone in the struggles.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      I didn’t reply to this when you posted, because life was insane at the time (still is, but I’m getting a bit better at managing my time). Thank you, though; it meant the world!

  5. Adam says:

    Hi,I have finally decided to write to you after reading a lot of your articles – this one just gave me the courage!
    I am currently studying the PHD Physical Therapy program as well as write on my own blog (although just started hehe). I also have a bachelors degree in Kinesiology and I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

    Your writing is really inspiring! Just checked in to tell you. Finally stepped out of the shadows of just being an anonymous reader! haha cheers!

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Hi Adam, thank you for your message, I really appreciate hearing from you.
      I just checked out your blog and will definitely be reading it with interest. Many, MANY of my patients come to see the GP because of back pain.

  6. Robyn says:

    Thanks for saying it! I work with the government mainly in clinics that are overpopulated and under-resourced. We have similar time constraints and the same kinds of patient. Some patients are quick, but some people do take a really long time especially if you’re trying to sort out an issue that has not really been managed well.

    It helps quite a bit and boosts morale when the patients express their gratitude. Sometimes the extra time we spend with them is all they really needed.

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