Outback Doctors

I saw an ad for the ABC documentary series 'Outback Doctors' and immediately thought, "I should be on that show! I'm an outback doctor!"

And I am Outback Doctor now, of sorts. I've worked in Alice Springs for nearly 4 months. I know about nulla-nullas and redback bites. I'm no longer surprised by the pus or the maggots, or the patient who sprints off half way through the consultation to retrieve his swag from the Todd riverbed before someone nicks it. Actually, I understand this one now: a good swag costs about $300.

Of course, the real outback doctors consider Alice Springs to be the 'big smoke' so I guess I've got a way to go before I'm a documentary star.

My friend Marcel is a paeds registrar working in community paediatrics. He likes to make fun of the short-term mindset of the ED doctor: after all, he works in preventative medicine. When he visited the ED the other day I gleefully said, "Slow day for preventative medicine Marcel? You didn't prevent any of this!" - with a sweeping gesture around the busy ED.

I often think that I am too jolly, not serious enough, during my work in the ED.

Yesterday I picked up a patient and the nurse in charge asked me to pick up her sister- the next patient- at the same time. I got cross and refused: to my mind there is nothing worse than seeing two or three patients at once. This invariably happens when a whole family has gastro, and the history proceeds, "Well, Johnny started vomiting last Tuesday, after we had some fish fingers that I'd bought from Coles because I couldn't find a park in Woolies. Their parking is terrible, you know. And Kate had a spew that afternoon too, I think. Or was that me??" And it just becomes impossible to know, or even care, which of the three little patients might be getting dehydrated.

Anyway, these particular patients were adults, who could surely manage on their own. So I went out to the waiting room well pleased with my decision not to admit the patient's sister to the ED yet, only to discover that the sister is completely blind. I looked so mean and foolish that I laughed and laughed with the the nurse in charge.

I finished Coetzee's 'Summertime' today, a beautifully self-deprecating autobiography. "But what if we are all fictioneers, as you call Coetzee? What if we all continually make up the stories of our lives? Why should what I tell you about Coetzee be any worthier of credence than what he tells you himself?"


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