Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Psalm 139

Last Sunday we sang part of Psalm 139 to a haunting Anglican chant whose beauty has remained with me all this week. The words speak of how God is always with us.
Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit,
or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven thou art there,
if I go down to hell thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there also shall thy hand lead me
and thy right hand shall hold me.
You might imagine that the Christian breezes through life safe in the knowledge that God is with him or her. Perhaps some do, but you will know that that is not my style. I have been unsure of my abilities as a doctor, been aware of my weaknesses, and found the needs of my patients wearisome. I have certainly not seen myself as God's agent sorting out his children's needs with a deft hand while the Holy Spirit perches lightly on my shoulder.

And yet strangely this week has been different after singing that psalm. I have dealt effectively with some serious problems and become aware that I provide more than a technical service. One slightly deaf elderly lady said “isn't he nice” to her daughter as she left my room, which pleased me because as well as being nice I had managed to make some technical adjustments which had improved her condition. Another rather “proper” elderly lady spoke frankly of her fears about her illness. I have known her a long time and although I could not reassure her since I think her fears are well founded, I did comfort her in the sense of strengthening her. I don't quite know how I did this, it wasn't anything I said but it was more to do with my manner and our long relationship. As she left she said “I'd kiss you if I dared” and although I was a bit nervous I proffered my cheek, to her evident satisfaction. This week I have also become aware that my colleagues whom I admire are occasionally fallible which did not exactly induce Schadenfreude, but did give me a sense that I am pulling my weight in the practice. And I spoke to a consultant friend concerning my worries about revalidation and he said there are many other GPs the authorities would want to get rid of before me.

So although I did not have a direct sense of God being with me as I worked through the past two days, looking back I suspect that he was there as the psalmist suggested. I don't know whether this insight will help. I'm sure that I will still find my patients' demands infinite, and will feel inadequate to deal with them. But perhaps a little less so. Deo gratias.


XE said...

Very glad to hear that you've had a good week so far Dr. Brown! I do hope that you'll be able to maintain this mindset, as it certainly seems beneficial to both you and your patients.

I trust the annual review, or whatever it's called, went well? I hope so, you seem like the type of GP I'd like to have!

Anonymous said...

You are nice!

I'd give you a peck on the cheek too, if only I could ;-)

Auntie Jane said...

I'm glad you've had a good week. I can't say that I wish you were my doctor as the one I have is very good and goes beyond the call of duty at times, I am sure.

But if I didn't have him, I'd be very happy if you were my doctor.

Glad you are writing again. Take care.

Anonymous said...

In a blog that's already remarkable for the quality of its writing, this post is exceptional. Really beautifully done - strong sentiment expressed without sentimentality.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Brown,

I hope you appreciate these two events (the nice comment from the elderly lady; and the kiss) for what they are: the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how much your patients appreciate you! Most of the times, there is no real need to compliment your GP, but if you would ask them, I'm pretty sure many of your patients would have something good to say about you.
Don't ask, but be sure that they would!

Dr Andrew Brown said...

Thanks everyone. Your support is much appreciated.

Xavier: my appraisal is not until next week (I was preparing the material, which must be submitted two weeks in advance). I'm not worried about this one, but I need to know how to prepare for future appraisals because the gloves are coming off and in future failed appraisals will mean no revalidation. That doesn't bother me too much, but I want to keep going for just a few more years.

Janeway: I was touched by your comment. I feared people would find this posting boring or silly. Probably some people did, but kindly refrained from telling me so. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hope the appraisal went well - as an appraiser I dearly hope we never get to the situation where it is possible to 'fail' an appraisal. I hope that is not how appraisal is being portrayed in your neck of the woods.

I can see there are going to be some additional blot-ons within and around appraisal to cope with revalidation. But at its heart it has to stay as a formative process for the benefit of the GP. Pass and fail should simply not be an issue regarding appraisal.

I recognise this might be a hopelessly naive view but I am fairly sure that most current appraisers will walk away if that central principal is not upheld.

Mimi said...

I adore the Psalms too. They can be so comforting. It seems that we are not so different to all those folks so many hundreds of years ago. Our fears are so similar. You sound like a wonderful doctor!

Dr Andrew Brown said...

Thanks, Northern Doctor & Mimi.

KeyReed said...

This was a great post. If you are aware of your weaknesses this is good - it means you are not arrogant. As a teacher I know many of us can feel quite low when we think we do not have all the skills we would like but there are other teachers who say, 'I don't have any trouble with that class.' Who are they kidding. You sound like the kind of person who, aware of what YOU consider to be weaknesses, would actually do something about the matter, be it a bit of extra reading or asking a colleague for advice. Stick with it. God has put you where you are for a reason.
Anyway - has anobody said you are a bad doctor? No, so stop thinking it!