The spinster consultant

This colleague of Dalrymple’s was in her mid-fifties and her patients

were her family, her recreation, her life. Her devotion to them was absolute.

On her ward rounds

she examined each with minute care, read their notes from start to finish, and ordered long batteries of tests in case she had missed something, even when the diagnosis had been made weeks before.

Although she was a woman of the greatest kindness, her rounds

were an ordeal for all concerned — patients, nurses, doctors – lasting eight to ten hours. By the end one wished to scream, to kick the walls, to smash plates. And the worst of these ordeals was that they benefited no-one. I do not recall a single patient whose life was saved, whose diagnosis was made, whose prognosis was improved, by this minute sifting of details.

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