GP during COVID-19: Dr Ashleigh Clark

Posted on 4th Jun 2020

My day starts at 9am, but really, my mind is filled with thoughts of my patients long before then.

I arrive at work at 8:40am. I turn on my computer and make a cup of tea. I know I can take on anything with a cup of tea.  

I work through some results that have appeared in my inbox overnight. A few patients need to be called and follow up arranged. I’ll contact them later today.

9am hits and it’s time to start with telehealth consults. This might be over telephone or with a video link. The first few minutes of the consultation are usually spent fixing technical issues and confirming ID.

Throughout the morning, I try my best to build rapport with new patients over telehealth but I know I can’t always offer the same service – the subtle body language, facial expression and physical examination aren’t there to help. It has been especially challenging in recent weeks, with the number of consults for mental health concerns increasing notably. Life is really tough for a lot of people and their usual support systems aren’t always available. I hope they still feel they are being looked after.

The morning rushes by in a blur – running up scripts and referrals to our busy reception staff in between consults. Documentation. Not to mention the extra time it takes me just to clinically reason. Being a GP term one registrar, most things are new to me and I often need to run things by my supervisors. I reflect back on a few months earlier when I first started, never thinking my first term in a new training program would be in the time of a global pandemic.

The next patient is a sick child. Her mum is concerned and I can’t get a video connection good enough to be confident with my examination. I will bring her in that afternoon in the designated face-to-face contact time to be sure.

All of a sudden it’s 1pm and it’s my allocated day for the COVID-19 drive-through swab clinic. I put on my PPE and head out to the back lane for an hour. I’m really happy I get this experience and so glad we can offer the service to our community, but sometimes my mind is preoccupied by the insidious itch on my nose that seems to appear every time I put on the suit. 

I head back to my office where I see the sick child from earlier. I am reassured by my examination and her Mum thanks me on the way out. “I just feel so much better knowing someone has laid eyes on her,” she tells me.

During the next consult, I will need to break some bad news. My supervisor knows this is coming up and pokes her head into my office. She offers advice and support in amongst her busy day and offers to debrief later. I feel so grateful to be training where I am. No matter how hectic the day is, I am provided with support, beyond what I could have hoped for and a mentor that I am inspired by. 

The last appointment wraps up. I start to clean my office, but then I remember; the results! And that information I said I’d email to a patient. And that call I have to return.

I make another cup of tea.