The interesting thing about my changed work practices is that I'm now much closer to my patients.
I don't mean I feel like holding their hands or buying the Christmas presents, I mean I'm physically closer to them.
Which seems strange, after all the back of an ambulance is certainly more cramped than the examination room that I use to diagnose, treat and educate my patients.
The problem is that I find myself having to get much closer to my patients to examine them.
As an example – if I were to pick up a healthy looking person with a sore throat and a cough, I wouldn't get too close to them. I'd plug them into the machinery of blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature, then take a seat across the way from them while they coughed and spluttered and made out to be much sicker than they really were.
Now, however, I find myself getting very much up close and personal with my patients – if someone comes to me with a sore throat and cough I need to know what their tonsils look like, whether they are pus-ridden, what their breath smells like. I need to look in their ears, I need to feel their lymph nodes. And so on and so forth.
I was always convinced that when I left shift work I would stop getting ill – and several of my old colleagues have commented on how healthy I look when compared to my time on the ambulances. And this is true – I do feel a lot better.
That was until an outbreak of a viral upper respiratory tract infection became a rather popular reason to attend the UCC.
(And as an aside, are viral URTIs rare in SE asia? I only ask because a lot of the people I see are from there and, while the demographics of Newham are in their favour, I wonder if the reason they pitch up to hospital is because they have had no experience of such things in their homeland. In a similar vein, I would guess that chickenpox is also rare there).
So, I've been seeing a lot of these viral URTI patients. And getting close to them.
And now I have the bloody thing. During my four days off which, I swear, were going to be spent doing interesting and productive things, but which have now been spent drinking lemon tea, lying on the sofa and wondering if this really is just an URTI and not the first stages of The Himalayan Coughing Yak Death-plague. Of Doom.
Thankfully I'm feeling a little bit better now, just in time to return to work tomorrow.
(I suspect that in six months time I shall be immune to everything).