A Day in the Life

In order to hone my interview skills and develop a sense of how to prepare questions which would evoke interesting answers, I decided that a good starting point for this would be to do ‘Day in the Life’ interviews with every day people. I asked a G.P. friend to oblige me in this.

The idea was to gain interview experience without having to do copius amounts of research on specific subjects so asking people for an overview of an average day seemed a simple way to do this.

What I found quite incredible was that if you talk to someone for long enough their stories unfold and interesting, note-worthy morsels of potential other stories crop up when you least expect it.

Here is the interview and at the end I will explain what I mean.

Dr. Penny Rother is a 51 year old GP, wife and mother of two. She is also a dedicated tri-athlete and has held the title of  ‘Best in the UK’  in her age category for the past 7 years. She lives and works in Midlothian.


“I have very contrasting days, days when I do nothing but work and days when I do many other things and work! I have lots to do and I just get on with it. I plan ahead to make life simpler for myself, if I know I’m working until 8p.m. then I’ll organise things, get the shopping done, maybe put something in the slow cooker.  A typical day for me will have an early start. I get up at 5.45a.m and either go to the gym or swimming. I got into the way of doing this when the kids were young, it was a way that I could train without disrupting their routine. I get home at seven, have some breakfast and take my son to school. I’m very much a morning person and I prefer to start the day early and exercise rather than stay up late and do it at night.  

I begin work at 8.00 a.m. I will either be duty doctor or have a routine surgery. I do two full days and two half days. A half day is around 7 hours and on a full day I work 11-12 hours. We have a culture of working late in our practice. Some GPs are better with their time management than others. I’m not the best but I’m not the worst! I’ve been a GP for 24 years and in general I’m still very enthusiastic about my work although I do have days where I’m a bit burnt out.

I’ll always be enthusiastic about the patient care side of things but I could do without the administration and box-ticking. Sometimes it does feel as though you are doing something with a patient purely to earn money rather than what’s actually relevant to their patient care. For example, you could commence a patient on cholesterol lowering drugs and there will be a target reading to reach before we can claim a payment. A patient could feel fine on 40mg of a drug but if you increase it to 80mg to try and reach that target they may feel unwell. Why put a patient through that?

That side of my job can upset me at times. I try not to think about the targets or payments. I think about having reduced the risks considerably by having reduced their cholesterol. You have to balance it out. I often do what I call ‘The Granny Test.’ If it was my Granny, what would I want for her? Over the years you worry less about doing things by the book, you do what feels right. I’m sensitive to what the patients needs are.  

If I’ve worked a half day then I usually have an afternoon or evening training session. I pick my son up from school around 4pm so I can train anytime from then onwards. I try to do equal amounts of training per week, swim three times, cycle three times and go to the gym three times. I’ve often tried to analyse why I enjoy athletics so much. It’s an endurance sport and it plays to my strengths. I love being out in the elements and I find it therapeutic, it’s very much my sanity time, to take a break away from everything and think about things.

I also have a strong competitive side which comes from having two older brothers, I never got to win at anything! But it’s not always about competing with someone else, sometimes it’s just about me doing the best I can for myself. It does also help me unwind, I like the feeling of being physically tired after a session and it can be very relaxing. Whilst I enjoy my exercise and I’m diligent in what I do, I don’t prioritise it above all else. Sometimes life can get so busy that something has to give and I’m not obsessional about it. 

If I’ve worked a full day I don’t usually do anything else unless I absolutely have to. I go home around 8pm, have a meal, check my emails, have a glass of wine or maybe watch a film and I’m in bed for 10pm.

Some people say my life is hectic, but for me, that’s just the way that it is. Then again, some people might think I have an easy life!”

Interview ends.

 During the course of the interview I discovered that Penny was incredibly disheartened in her role as a GP. She had very strong viewpoints about the new GP contract and the fact that GP practices receive payments for specific treatments and procedures for their chronic disease patients. In many ways they feel they are providing care (box ticking) dictated to them by the contract and not neccessarily what they instinctively feel they should do as a practitioner.

Needless to say, I was eager for Penny to elaborate on this issue but that, is a whole other story.

On another note entirely, she also happened to mention when discussing her triathlon training, that she is a compulsive counter. She counts her paces when running, the wheel turns on her bike and strokes when swimming.

She becomes extremely frustrated and anxious when her counting pattern is disturbed and it has become such an issue that she has extended this compulsive trait into many other aspects of her life. She counts the pieces when chopping a carrots and will readily throw it all in the bin and start again if she loses count. Again, a whole other story.

People love to talk and stories naturally unfold just through conversation. I will definitely use Penny as a future contact on articles about OCD or the state of General Practice.

I thought this may help people looking for story ideas. If anyone says anything remotely interesting jot their details in your contact book with a note for future articles.

Lisa Toner


2 Responses

  1. Well done Lisa! Such a great idea and really well thought out!

  2. I loved this blog Lisa. Well done, and good journalism work!

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