Stephanie Moore and Martin Billington: Why everyone needs tea and cake

Tea breaks are an opportunity to enjoy a piece of cake and catch up with colleagues.  We decided to make the most of ours and take turns to share and discuss a thought-provoking concept of the week “t-pot” for short.

Each session has offered a new perspective on what it means to be a doctor.

One week someone read an extract from Henry Marsh’s “Do No Harm.” Marsh’s reflection on watching a child die on the same operating table that his own son had been operated on a few months earlier reminded us of the fragility of life and how, all too often, we take our lives for granted.

Another time, discussion about Abraham Verghese’s TED talk “A Doctor’s Touch” helped us realise that basic human connections are being compromised because technological developments have become so central in a doctor’s daily work. Verghese also said, “Even when we cannot cure, we can heal.” This resonated among the group, and propounded that just because we are able to do something as doctors does not mean that we always should.

After a reading from John Berger’s “A Fortunate Man”–about Berger’s observations of a GP working over 50 years ago–we were inspired to build better relationships with our patients as a means to encourage their confessions and help with each patient’s personal loneliness.

Dannie Abse’s poem “Useful Knowledge” was recited during one tea break. Hearing Abse’s stark illustration of a parent’s pain when understanding that their child’s illness was terminal has helped those of us who have not experienced this dreadful reality when struggling to empathize.

The rich brew of “T-pot” offerings has afforded us insights into the daily tribulations of our colleagues and patients and has equipped us with an appreciation of each others’ behaviour and decision making processes.

Taking time over tea to think about things differently can be surprising learning. And what goes better with tea than cake?

Stephanie Moore is 3rd year medical student at Sheffield University.

Competing interests: None declared




Martin Billington is a GP and undergraduate tutor.

Competing interests: None declared