Tuesday, 22 January 2019
by Eleni Naria Hadjicosta, Alumni 2018
You start with a goal. Graduate med school. Pretty big thinking when you’re 18 years old. And then one day, you wake up, and realise you’ve done it. You are now a doctor. All those years of hard work, all the sweat and tears, the laughs and stress weren’t for nothing. You can finally do what you’ve always wanted- to help people get better. And you have a job, which is great, no interviews, no job hunting, just doctoring. And then reality hits.
July 31st. My birthday. Any other year I’d have woken up with a nice welcoming warm sun and a gift from my mum. I’d spend the day at the beach with some friends, enjoy the heat and come home for dinner and cake. Today, I woke up at 5:30 am to get the tube for an hour, to get to work for 8. I get in the ward where the SHO informs me that the FY1 that I’m supposed to be shadowing called in sick.*
“Get the COW and come quick, ward round is starting”.
I spent my day working, having being yelled at by the ward sister for some unattended open cannulas in the doctors room (Still unknown up to this day who let them there, but it wasn’t me), the clinical microbiologist registrar (whose last day of work it was at the NHS)started the telephone conversation with “Well let me tell you something to tell your seniors” and ranted on the phone for 15 minutes while I was trying to ask her what antibiotics to give, my food being spilled all over my clothes and me leaving work an hour late to finish the jobs of the day. Day 1 of work was not as expected. Birthday was suddenly not as fun as usual.
Things got better after that, and I’m not giving this example to complain about life as a doctor. It’s a big jump from medical school, as you suddenly have responsibility about people’s lives. Nothing can prepare you for it, and everyone has a different experience, either simpler or more difficult. But everyone goes through it, and (almost) everyone comes out the other side just fine.
Leaving medical school, you think you’re at a pretty good knowledge level with regards to medicine. Then you start working, and realise you actually know the bare minimum, maybe enough to keep someone alive or not actively kill him (hopefully). When people asked me what I do, as an F1 I used to answer by saying “I’m an overqualified secretary”. I started with a surgical job, working with the hepatopancreaticobiliary (or HPB) team in a big tertiary referral centre in Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. There were good days and bad days. I’ve had to deal with lovely kind patients that got gifts for the whole ward before leaving and horrible rude patients where nothing was good enough for them and they wanted to complain about everyone on the ward before leaving. I’ve seen young people die from cancer and elderly people die from old age surrounded by their families. It’s been a very interesting and varied job.
As a job, it has been very busy and understaffed, and as most surgical jobs tend to be, there has been very minimal support from seniors on the ward at any given time, due to the fact that most of the times they’re in theatre or outpatient clinic (or just hiding away in rooms to avoid doing ward work, which is, obviously, only for F1s and SHOs).
It’s now December and we’ve switched jobs (every 4 months we change wards) which brought me to respiratory medicine ward. It’s a massive difference, and it took me almost a week to accept the fact that we have registrars and SHOs on the ward helping out with the ward round jobs. The job is the same, but you learn how to deal with most emergencies in your on calls (I love on calls, it’s one of the few times you get to use your brain and all the medical knowledge that’s tucked away somewhere in a box in a corner under cat videos and Brexit talk). The more time spent in the hospital this year the more you realise you don’t know medicine. Working as a doctor is a long pathway that we’ve only just begun scratching the surface of. But if you love what you’re doing, it’s all worth it in the end. The first patient that thanks you personally makes it all worth it. So to any medical students or just anyone whose set any big goals in life and you’re working towards them, always remember why you started! F1 so far is looking great, and I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year will bring.
*SHO = senior house officer. A doctor who’s more senior than you, either an FY2 or core trainee. FY1 = foundation year one, any doctor as soon as they finish medical school. Our contracts of “working” starts 1st of August. They gave us 3 days of “shadowing” the previous F1s to learn the job. COW = computer on wheels (they named it on purpose, I’m sure)