A day in the life of: Nursing and GPs

Although many nurses would rightly argue that there is no such thing as a typical day when you work as a nurse, the basic structure within a hospital setting is similar day by day.

1) The beginning of the day
When a nurse first arrives at work on their ward or in their department, they will review outpatient records to get an idea of how many patients they’ll be dealing with that day. On a ward they will also talk to the night nursing staff so they are aware of any overnight problems. After that the preparation for the day can begin, including checking which patient tests will be administered, and coordinating schedules with doctors and the operating theatre.

2) Maintenance and administration
The testing of any equipment required during the day has to take place before it is used. Nurses then have to make sure all the paperwork and spreadsheets for the day are up to date and assessed.

3) Emergencies, care and Communication
As well as their daily patient care and administration routine, nurses are constantly on hand to deal with emergencies as they occur throughout the day. The nurse is also often the point of contact between visiting relatives and friends of patients, whether in person or by phone. They will need to comfort, reassure and explain to the visitors many of the medical procedures taking place.

4) Data collection and checking
As the nurses see patients and check on all medical procedures and drug intakes, they have to review each relevant chart and record all the collected data onto computer.

Although nurses work long tiring hours, their days are rewarding, ever changing, and make a huge difference to the well-being of the world at large.


And that of a GP (General Practitioner)

A GP or doctor will face a different set of challenges every day, although the structure of a day working in a surgery always remains the same.

  • Administration

A doctor’s day in a standard surgery begins with paperwork.  They respond to any letters from other medical practitioners, hospital discharge summaries, out-of-hours reports and patients test results.  They also need to check and write out repeat prescriptions.

  • Telephone triage

On average a GP will spend 45 minutes of his or her day taking telephone triage calls for people requesting appointments. This means that they listen to a patients symptoms over the phone and decide whether they need urgent, same day, treatment, or if they can wait for a later consultation.

  • Surgery

Surgery usually begins at about nine in the morning and will last until lunchtime. There will be a second surgery in the afternoon, or late afternoon into the evening depending on the day.  A doctor must see, examine, access, and treat or advise each patient within a ten minute period. They also have to make sure they are aware of each patient’s personal medical history so that a full understanding of each problem can be made.

  • Emergency admissions and Home Visits

Several times a week a patient may be considered too ill to be sent away, and an ambulance will be called to take them directly to hospital. This can make the responsible doctor’s surgery run late for the rest of the day. Even though the doctor has to care for the patient being given emergency treatment, they must also get back to his/her rooms to treat those waiting for his or her care.

Doctors also have to make a certain number of home visits to their patients each day.

  • Staff meeting and supervision

As well as patient care, doctors have to attend staff meetings to ensure the smooth running of the practice as a whole. Senior doctors also often have to supervise new and junior doctors as they get to grips with the world of general practice.

As with nurses, Doctors in general practice work long hard hours. Every day is different, and every challenge has to be addressed. However, the work is rewarding, and can make a positive difference to the population as a whole.

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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