Of Ibuprofen, a Doctor’s Touch, & Sepsis

love conferences! The collaborative spirit, rejuvenating quality, platform to discuss state of the profession, catching up with friends, and of course sleep-deprived exhaustion. What’s not to love?! I don’t, however blog about them. Yet this year I attended some which were so inspiring that I wanted to mention a few things.

Royal College of GPs Annual Conference

Royal College of GPs Annual Conference

Back in Year 1 Graduate Entry Medicine the concept of inflammation was drilled into us. The body’s natural response to infection or injury. You know it’s happening to you when the infected/injured area turns a little red, swells a bit, becomes warm & painful, and the area has reduced function- sore throat for example! So, I kept wondering, why do we take anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen as soon as we have sore throat? Surely it’s best to let our body start the fight? Voila! Research was presented at the RCGP’s Annual Conference that answered my question.  Evidence shows that Ibuprofen doesn’t help with sore throats or colds in adults, and some patients later returned with worse symptoms. Paracetamol worked better. Data did not cover children, & results for chest infections in adults were different. A nice summary here.

(NB: As a medical student I have no medical expertise. Thus this is not medical advice. You must consult your doctor if you have any queries.)

Isn’t evidence-based medicine beautiful? 2 pieces of everyday facts investigated for what actually works. Doctors who were convinced by that research will, hopefully modify their practise! Those who never stay up-to-date will keep doing what is shown to be ineffective. Thus sans constant focus on lifelong learning we end up causing far too much harm due to ignorance.

Having waxed lyrical over evidence I must say that I am routinely in awe of the art of medicine. At the very least we have a doctor’s bedside manner, building doctor-patient relationships, and understanding how to apply evidence in the meandering lives of our patients. Here too the RCGP conference had an inspiring speaker! The gentleman in my photo above is Prof Frede Oleson. His talk reminded me how deeply we all are influenced by rituals and beliefs. He pointed to brain scan data to show the difference a doctor’s consultation can make! Interestingly, some time ago yet another doctor spoke at a TED conference of the power of a physician’s art.

Doctors are lifelong prisoners of their early medical training, Prof. Oleson said at the conference. If I am to be a prisoner of mine then I hope to keep with me the wisdom of these doctors!

Dr Ron Daniels at Sepsis Unplugged 2015!

Dr Ron Daniels at Sepsis Unplugged 2015!

Speaking of influence- on my way to the above conference I found myself on a delayed flight with the indomitable Intensive Care Consultant (very senior Intensive Care doctor, for my non-UK readers) Ron Daniels!! I have been a fan ever since I “met” him on twitter whilst researching career change. Not only is he inspiringly egalitarian, energetic, & engaging but also passionate about eradicating sepsis. So when he set up a conference, I just had to attend!

Now, humour me! Please? Close your eyes and think of a packed Premier League football stadium. A lot of people, huh? Each year sepsis claims the lives of that many people in the UK (source: UK Sepsis Trust). Enter: Sepsis Unplugged. Doctors, other professionals, and patient groups were there to talk about what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve! They were all equals- and I don’t mean lip-service ‘equals’. No one shied away from controversial topics. And I was most impressed with an instant feedback toolkit for doctors and nurses who treat patients with sepsis! The software & team behind it could track how the medics used feedback to improve (ah, perfect for the evidence-based professional development portfolios!).

There was also a session on root cause analysis, and systems thinking with examples from the world outside Medicine! It’s hard to over-emphasise how crucial this is. Many in Medicine, from what I have seen are quite inward looking. Be it thinking about recruitment, professionalism, stress management, workflow management, or process mapping. If we do not let fresh air in from the world outside we end up circulating stale air. Most of my successes in my previous career were because I worked collaboratively with professionals with different expertise than mine. So it was wonderful to be at a conference more multidisciplinary than anything I had seen in Medicine thus far.

I learnt a huge amount that day. But most of all I felt encouraged having changed my career at the point I had done- it no longer looked like bad idea!

(Worried about Sepsis? Please do not delay and get in touch with your doctor/ A&E. If you’re unsure how to identify sepsis, here’s more info: http://sepsistrust.org/public/do-i-have-sepsis/)   Please remember that as a medical student I have no medical expertise. The above is not medical advice and you must consult your doctor for all health queries.

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