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When warmth, sympathy, and understanding outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug

Care. It is something that can be provided, something that you can take and something that you can do. It can refer to catering to the essential needs of someone or something in order to provide protection or welfare. It can represent a feeling of concern placed upon something of importance. It can describe the actions of looking after something, including oneself.  We often flippantly tell one another to “Take care!” but how often do we extend this to the needs of others around us?

When I graduated from medical school, I recited a modern equivalent based upon the Oath of Hippocrates, promising to “remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.”  It is my job to care about the health and wellbeing of my patients and the ability to empathise is crucial to being able to do this effectively.  According to Carer’s UK, it is estimated that 1 in 8 adults in the UK are carers.  It has in fact been even higher than this through the pandemic, with an estimated 13.6 million people caring for others.  Often these caring roles are not chosen or something one has received training to employ but rather become essential responsibilities and are being undertaken by people of all ages; a 9-year-old child caring for a disabled parent, a 99-year-old caring for a dying husband or wife.

Friday 18 February is recognised internationally as ‘Care Day’ and this year we are reminded to consider how “It takes a village to raise a child”.  Many carers are children and young adults who depend upon support from extended family, teachers, friends, and neighbours who all contribute to making their caring role a little easier.  The playing out of the pandemic over the last 2 years has been extremely isolating for these young carers and the lack of access to their “village” of support has been devastating in some cases.  These connections to others who can listen, encourage, or show understanding should not be underestimated.  Perhaps you are already part of a collective bubble of support to a young person who is providing care and you may not even realise it?

21-27 February is “You Can Care” week encouraging people to consider a career in caring for others.  What the last 2 years has proven to me is that the required qualifications to be a carer are attributes that we are all capable of possessing.  Not dissimilar to the Hippocratic Oath, I think the key is offering warmth, sympathy and understanding.  If we are vigilant to the needs of other people in our families and communities, we can all make a difference.  Let’s remember as well as self-care and “taking care” there are millions of people living in our communities who we can all help to care for, and that even little contributions can have a big impact.

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Dr Charlotte Anderson

Charlotte graduated from the Hull York Medical School in 2010. She then went on to specialise in caring for children and babies for a number of years before completing training to become a GP. She has been at Sherburn Group Practice since March 2021. 

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