Through someone else’s eyes (1): general practitioner Paul Pulles

27 Jan 2020

Nijmegen is a real student city. That’s what keeps the city fun and young, but it sometimes also causes tension. What do the inhabitants of Nijmegen who don’t work on campus think about students? In part 1: Paul Pulles (45), who sees a lot of students in his practice in Brakkenstein.

‘Most of them come with sports injuries, stomach complaints or STDs, but recently I’m seeing more and more students with complaints related to fatigue and burnouts. Today’s student wants to do everything, and this quickly becomes too much. My advice is to take time for yourself, don’t put such high demands on yourself and don’t be afraid to miss something now and then.

This wisdom comes with age. When I myself was a student, I wasn’t very good at this either. We now see that student psychologists have waiting lists, and these lists are often so long that students turn to the general practitioner in desperation. Our office has a primary care assistant practitioner from the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care, and students can often be seen on the same day that they phone us.’

Research

‘Students are direct and often have a clear question. They talk easily about their problem. They’ve already done some research so they’ve got a good idea of what the problem might be. If I tell them something else, it’s difficult to convince them. I don’t see this as a disadvantage; rather, it motivates me to do my best. It’s also a nice change from the older patients, who are often less well prepared.

At the beginning of the new academic year parents sometimes phone the practice to register their child or students drop by themselves because their parents have told them to. This makes it a lot easier for me to get to know the student. Most of them only come when they’ve got a problem, and then it’s more difficult to assess a person and solve the problem. By the way, I’m amazed by the lifestyle of today’s students; they’re often very aware of their nutrition and their lifestyle. That wasn’t the case in the past.’

Trust

‘The variation between working in the village atmosphere of Brakkenstein and seeing a lot of students makes my work challenging. I don’t think that getting older will be a barrier for me in being able to empathise with students because I can still remember very well what I was like as a student. And age makes it easier to put things into perspective and win students’ trust.’

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