It’s July 2016 and the realisation that there’s only a few weeks before I walk the hospital corridors as a doctor for the first time. I’m filled with terror and excitement, but mostly terror. A year later, and here I am, older and hopefully a little wiser. A year has gone by very quickly but not without some lessons learnt. Here is some of the things I wished I knew before I started F1.
- Lower your expectations. This is so crucial. You’ll save a lot of pain and heartache knowing now that the idea you may have in your head is so different from reality. I struggled with this, and to some respect I still do. I hoped I’d be learning more, building on all the things I’d learnt for finals. Realistically, you learn how to document faster, recite blood results without looking and pre-empt what the consultants want even before they know they want it. All the things you revised for at med school go out the window.
- Think it through. There were times, especially in the beginning where I’d be in a situation and I just didn’t know what to do. A patient was unwell and I didn’t know why or what to do next or who to tell. My mind would start racing and I would feel myself start to panic. Don’t do that. Don’t panic. Unless it’s a crash call where you have to act really quickly, then you can take a few seconds to order your thoughts. The time you spend running around not really doing anything is time wasted. Take it back to basics if you don’t know what to do: ABCDE.
- There were so many times in the first month I would be paralysed by indecision. Some situations I just didn’t know what to do, even if it was a relatively simple query. But with time I got quicker at making those smaller decisions. It’s the same for everyone else. What helped me was looking up trust guidelines, having a quick Google, asking one of the F2s.
- Don’t take everything to heart. Consultant’s might question you, registrar’s might tell you off unfairly, other colleagues might seem unreasonable and then take it out on you. It might not even be about you, so don’t let it get to you.
- Take care of yourself. You’re working in a system that is under a lot of strain and pressure and some of that will filter down onto you. It’s not your burden to bear all of it. Working 24 hours a day for 7 days a week, won’t save the situation. Just be mindful and do what you can.
- Prepare to work hard. You’ll miss lunch, you’ll work when you’re sick and you have to give some stuff up. It’s a hard balance to strike but I always make sure I’ve eaten or I’ve at least had a break. Missing the odd one might not count. But doing this repeatedly will start to affect you and you deserve more than that. I don’t believe being a doctor means you provide a service all the while breaking yourself down. You can’t work in a team, be a good colleague or a good doctor if you don’t look after yourself. You are you first, before you’re a doctor.
- There are so many embarrassing moments and mistakes. I’ve had too many cringe-worthy moments, but I learnt from them to make sure they didn’t happen again. (They did, just less frequently)
- Don’t expect a lot of praise. When you do get some, it will feel amazing. To actually have someone else applaud your hard work is a great feeling. But don’t hang your hopes on waiting for it, that’s an easy way to be disappointed.
- There’ll probably be a not so great placement. I’ve had my share. Don’t let it get to you, not all rotations can’t be the same. You’ll love some more than others. In the ones that you love, enjoy those moments. In the ones you don’t, just focus on working through. They’re four months long, they will always come to an end. Take what you need from them in order to grow and brush the rest off.
- Be prepared to laugh and cry. You’ll be working with so many clever, insightful people. You’ll bond over hard shifts and difficult patients. Some of the stuff I’ve gone through I’ve been able to vent to colleagues about, and they get it. It’s important to have a support system that understands. A lot of the times I come home and vent even more, to my mum and on here. You’ll be dealing with a lot, don’t keep it all to yourself.
That’s 10 things I’ve learnt. The next piece will be out next week. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree and share with anyone you think this might help!