The army is struggling to recruit for the Special Air Service (or SAS), a world-renowned élite force. They find it hard to find volunteers with the right combination of mental resolve and physical prowess. They are missing a trick. They should look among the ranks of doctor’s receptionists. Like many men, I don’t like going to the doctor’s. If you don’t feel well, the last thing you want to face is a number of challenging situations. The receptionist is just the first of many, but in many ways, the most daunting. These highly trained individuals are there to weed out the needy, the snifflers and the feeble of mind.
“Is it an emergency?” Of course it’s not an emergency, otherwise I would go to accident and emergency.
“Do you need to see someone today?” In a week, I’ll either be dead or better and I’d like to do what I can to make sure it’s the latter, so yes – I’d like to see someone today.
Once you are in, you are faced with the next challenge, the examination. Is it just me, or does the examination seem somewhat archaic? Thee stethoscope remains fundamentally unchanged since its invention nearly 200 years ago. If the doctor wants to test your reflexes, he hits your knee with a hammer. To take your pulse rate, he holds your arm and counts. To take your temperature, he pokes something in your ear. If he thinks you might have appendicitis, he pokes your abdomen to see if you hit the roof. The only nod to modern technology is the PC in the corner which is clinically useless. It is just a record keeping device.
You might get referred to a hospital for more detailed tests. If they want to see inside you, they will stand you up against a photographic plate and bombard you with radiation. Or maybe they might stick you in a torpedo tube where they ask you to lie still whilst they try to deafen you. They might even smother your belly with freezing cold gel and thrust an ultrasound wand into your abdomen. They will look at the results on a monochrome screen that looks like a poorly tuned TV.
Why can’t it be like sick bay in Star Trek? As you lie on the couch, a machine behind you monitors your life signs. A steady bass beat echoes in time with your heartbeat. Doctor Bones McCoy waves a warbley box of tricks over your abdomen which tells him exactly what’s wrong with you. Invariably, he then reaches for a different device which makes a high-pitched whining. Whatever’s wrong with you, it is rapidly remedied with a quick wave of this futuristic marvel. All of this is carried out whilst a beautiful nurse in an inordinately short skirt mops your fevered brow.
It feels to me like modern medicine has a long way to go.