The 10 Commandements of a Family Doctor

  • It took me 10 years to realize that I actually enjoyed being a GP, or rather I finally recognized myself as having become a true Family Doctor. It was not an easy, believe me, it took a long time to get over the “inferiority complex” of having all of your Medical School friends  getting their specialization in Orthopaedics, Anaesthetics, Cardiovascular Surgery …. And here I was … a GP … just a GP.
    I’m not even sure what triggered that “light bulb” moment but suddenly I realized that over the years I have created so many fantastic patient-doctor relationships, and that I would not want to trade those experiences in for just another diploma on my wall.
    So I tried to analyses exactly what makes just a GP become a true Family Doctor … all the highs and lows, all the good parts, and the not so good parts … and came up with my own…


  • The patient is thy God, and thy shalt have no other patients but them: be focused and take the time to really listen to your patients – as if they were your only patient. Respect them and their symptoms and treat them all like the fellow humans that they are, but bear in mind that just as no disease presents equally in all people, so no 2 people are equal, respect those differences and approach them accordingly.

    1. Thou shalt not speak of your patient or their situation: keeping the Hippocratic oath can sometimes be difficult, but respecting your patient’s privacy (even to members of their own family) is an important element of building that trust between patient and doctor.
  • Thou shalt be available to your patients: even if they phone you at  3am on a Sunday because of an itchy rash they had for the last 4 days … you can still scream, cry , vent and call them names in the privacy of your car … as you’re driving out for the house call!

    1. Thou shalt honour your teachers and stay up-to-date in your field of expertise: you need to stay on top of your game, always, especially when your patients have already self-diagnosed themselves online, or come for a consultation with  lengthy print-outs of the latest internet “cures”.
      Thou shalt not kill:
       rather self-explanatory that one I think … always remember your Oath : “… first do no harm…”
    2. Thou shalt not cheat: whether you’re cheating them out of options or hope or guidance … never give up on your patients, educate them to the best of your ability on their disease, its impact on their lives, and encourage them through all stages of their illness and healing.
    3. Thou shalt not steal your patients’ time: do not send them for unnecessary tests and examinations just because you’re not 100% sure what’s the matter with them. Time is money, for you as much as for them, so try and be as punctual as possible, but don’t let the clock rule you, give as much of your time as they need.
    4. Thou shalt not lie: even if you don’t want to tell the hard truth, honesty IS the best policy. Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know what’s wrong with you”, but  explain to them HOW you intend to get to the answer, this will make for a healthy give-and-take relationship.
    5. Thou shalt not covet your patients: any good Physician knows their limitations and timely referral to the correct Specialists is sometimes necessary, and sometimes even lifesaving.
    6. Thou shalt not covet your patient’s wife: wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, pet … no matter … learn to be their empathetic friend but never cross that “professional line”.

    I’m not sure what Moses would make of all these ramblings, but for me at least, these basic rules have helped to keep me on track with what being a Family Doctor is all about!

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