Monday, 20 September 2010

Sick Notes

Still on a medical note, let me recommend a new book by a chum of mine, who writes under the pseudonym of Dr. Tony Copperfield (Sick Notes- True Stories from the Front Lines of Medicine, pub. Monday Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1-906308-14-8).

This really tells it like it is from the G.P.s viewpoint, and though 'Dr. Copperfield' comes across as a really cynical character, it strikes me as being very true to life as well as very amusing. Read this and you'll understand why GPs sometimes seem less than perfect. If you're thinking of becoming a medical student, then don't read this. You will immediately switch your University application to a less demanding and pleasanter course such as 'Waste Disposal with Dancing' (currently being offered by Northampton University; I'm thinking of going for that one myself, I can picture myself pirouetting down the middle of a hospital ward in my leotard, carrying the bedpans above my head).

A few examples from the B,C,D section Dr. Copperfield's glossary of medical acronyms (MedSpeak) will give you the flavour of the thing:

BAPS: British Association of Plastic Surgeons (How naive are they?)
BJGP: British Journal of General Practice. A monthly publication where GPs who wear sports jackets without irony pontificate about 'holistic care' and the patient's 'inner journey'.
CBT: Clot in a bow tie-a derogatory term for hospital consultant, used by angry GPs. Very angry GPs sometimes resort to the alternative, c**t in a bow tie.
CME: Continuing Medical Education. The requirement for doctors to attend promotional lectures while eating curry or stale vol-au-vents, both sponsored by the manufacturer of a new wonder drug, in the name of education.
DBI: Dirt bag index. A rough and ready estimation of the number of hours since a patient's last bath or shower calculated by multiplying the number of tattoos by the number of missing teeth.
DKDC: Don't know don't care. There comes a point, usually at the end of a 25-minute consultation with a heartsink patient about their peculiar aches and pains and their funny turns, when the doctor realizes that he doesn't know what's causing them and has frankly given up trying to make sense of the story. A prescription for vitamin tablets often follows.

Read the book.You'll learn a lot from it. It reminded me of the horror of front-line medicine, especially the DBI and the DKDC. You're not a real doctor until you've been called to certify death in a tramp brought into casualty and as you wrinkle your nose, open the layers of clothing and lean over the cold body to listen to the heart, you feel the fleas climbing up your arm to find a better host. Or been called to a house at 3 am to see a woman who is groaning in a locked toilet because she is constipated and hasn't 'been' for 24 hours.


  1. God, that's sad - about the tramp, isn't it.

    I used to work with a shower of Veterinary Surgeons and the stories that they would tell were hideously funny (also about working with the great unwashed).

    Cannot repeat any incase former employers track me down and euthanase me for spilling the beans....

    ali x

  2. There's nothing worse than the smell of dead bodies (a tramp's socks might come close). I was looking for mushrooms in a remote woodland area back in Northumberland when I found a body hanging from a tree. The birds had started to rearrange his features and the flies were already moving in. Suicide apparently. I can still smell it.