After nearly five weeks of being on GP placement, it is safe to say that I have seen a spectrum of patients presenting with the more common coughs and colds, but also paediatric patients presenting with widespread rashes or an unexplained tendency to bruise.
As we are given the opportunity to conduct our own consultations, I began to realise just how much patients value just being able to talk to someone and divulge their concerns. As someone who is naturally an introvert, I found this difficult to manoeuvre initially. However, as I saw more patients, I began to realise that a lot of patients simply want to be listened to. Whilst their concerns may be directly unrelated to their health, it is essential to attempt to address them to the best of your capacity so the patient leaves the consultation feeling less distressed. Patients are also incredibly receptive to words of support and reassurance when appropriate.
Health-related anxiety is a relatively common phenomenon and I have just begun to appreciate just how much it influences individual willingness to engage with healthcare. A lot of patients present with symptoms that cannot be explained with a medical diagnosis. In such situations, it is essential to garner a social history and consider whether other stresses or events may be responsible for the patient’s deterioration in health. I have also found that it is useful to maintain appropriate eye contact and use suitable non-verbal cues to put the patient at ease and assure them that you are actively engaged with the consultation.