The Medic Journal

The musings of a junior doctor

Sunday, 23 February 2020

6 months as a doctor

Wow, somehow I have been working for six months! I'm happy to say overall I am loving my job.

Foundation Year 1 has been a rollercoaster, a job of exponential learning. It's amazing how the stuff that scared you on day one you now don't think twice about. I completed my first rotation in acute medicine and now I am mid way through my general surgery rotation.

There are hundreds of things that annoy me about this job, but I still love doing it. The parts that frustrate me relate to how the NHS is run, rather than my actual job. The constrictions placed upon us while we work within a poorly managed and often short-staffed environment.

Amongst the lows, there have been many highs. I have met so many wonderful colleagues who have mentored me, supported me and become my friends. I get so much enjoyment from spending time with patients. There have been unexpected diagnoses, like the patient in ED who came in with a humeral fracture, and I diagnosed with metastatic cord compression. The unstable PR bleeds who were resuscitated well and stabilised. My proudest moment was looking after a patient who needed good palliative care. Being there for that patient and their family was a privilege. After the patient died, the family came back to the ward, gave me flowers and thanked me for the care I gave. That patient died where they wanted to, with dignity and with their loved ones.

What I am currently struggling with the most is dealing with confrontation. Part of what attracts me to this career is the fundamental team we rely on to get the job done. When that team works well it's great, and when it doesn't it causes all sorts of chaos and disagreement. There have been many tense moments that I have been directly or indirectly involved in. It makes me very sad seeing how rude people can be to each other. I try to understand; maybe it's because they're stressed/sleep deprived, maybe this wouldn't have become an argument if we had the 'right' resources. But sometimes there is no excuse - some people are just bullies. There is no defence for racism and sexism.
I've had moments when I am so tired, overwhelmed and sick of being treated in a disrespectful way, and I have retaliated. I invariably regret responding to that kind of behaviour. But when you are pushed that far, there is only so much you can take.

I'm starting to realise why I trained to be a doctor: the human interaction. I don't see myself pursuing an academic career, but it makes me very happy to spend time with patients and the team. Supporting someone during a terrible moment in their life has given me a lot of purpose. I look forward to what the next rotations will hold for me.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Remembering who you are outside of medicine

When anyone starts a new job there is the inevitable adjustment period: getting used to the role, the team, the inner workings of the company. Of course, I didn’t expect my first job as a doctor to be easy. However, the problem I’m having is remembering who I was before I started that job. In truth, it feels as if I haven’t done much else than work. 

It’s quite strange that I even became a doctor, when I was more suited to the humanities and languages. I have no special ability in science, definitely not in physics. Medical school applicants are usually students with a wide array of hobbies: sports, musical instruments, public speaking, charity work. It attracts someone who is used to spinning 10 plates at once. Now that I’ve started my job, I am really struggling to remember what I like to do in my own time. That being said, there isn’t exactly a lot of your own time anyway. 

I am short on time, I work hard and am still behind on my tasks. I feel guilty about the audit that isn’t complete, the portfolio sign offs I’ve yet to chase, the teaching session I haven’t written, the cremation forms that the cash office still hasn’t paid me for, the study leave form I haven’t given to my supervisor yet. The weekend I was due to do my first half marathon I am now going on a career taster weekend. Not that I actually committed to the necessary running training programme to begin with. 

In truth, the thought of doing some of my hobbies feels nothing more than a chore. Running isn’t really fun and effortless unless I’m training regularly, playing the piano is frustrating when I haven’t practised enough to play the pieces to the standard I want them at. 

Many people would read this and think, “you don’t find time, you make time for things you find important”. This is the realisation I am at now. We had a lecture on resilience at work and it was surprisingly good. All of this struggle is subjective. I have to remind myself that every day I choose to do this job, I can accept what comes with it or leave. No one is forcing me to turn up every day. I cannot complain when it is my choice. Sadly a boy I went to school with has died recently, he was the same age as me. Each day is a reminder that I have an opportunity that he will never have. 

I love being a doctor, but I also want to be a separate person other than my job. To have the time to be all the other facets of myself. Navigating how I will do this isn’t a chore, but a privilege to have.
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