Stop.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Sometimes, I see patients and for whatever reason I get flustered. There might be a few complicating issues, the symptoms aren’t clear, my mind is thinking of possibilities A, B, F, K, and Z, the clock is ticking and the floor is on fire. I feel under pressure and I can’t think straight. And when this happens and I don’t know what to do, I realise that I need to just stop, take a breath and start from the top.

Last Thursday, I had a difficult morning. I started the day with a complicated patient which set the tone for the rest of that morning clinic. My first appointment was a lady with known mental health issues. Midway through, she suddenly flipped and demanded I stop asking questions. She’d been getting more and more agitated and I think she’d just had enough. It put me in a bit of a bind. I examined her but I felt the safest thing I could do was refer her to be seen to rule out a blood clot. This was another mission. By the time I saw the next patient I was just all over the place. Add that with a complicated, slow computer program, that knows exactly when to act up and I started to jet steam from my ears.

Stop, breathe and start from the top.

I get like that occasionally, more than I’d care to admit. More often than not, I know what to do if I just slow down and take a minute to process everything. I know I add on a lot of pressure on myself and I get frustrated. I worry I might be judged by others. Judged by my colleagues or judged by patients for taking too long. I can’t control what other people think of me, but it seems like my own self esteem relies heavily on it. It’s a work in progress.

I was recently listening to an interview by the author of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck. I’ve not read it yet, but that book sounds like it was made for me.

But until then:

Stop.

Breathe.

Start from the top.

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The Phone Interview

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

I recently applied to be a volunteer at an upcoming ACW event. I had the interview and I got the role. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing, but I’m just excited that I’m going to be a part of it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my options which means spending my time Googling. I’ve found myself on the Medic Footprints site quite a bit, especially their blog section. Sometimes, in between patients, I take a quick break and just read through some of the articles. I like reading about doctors who’ve forged new careers for themselves or who’ve adapted their careers in some way to suit their lifestyle.

I find it difficult to openly talk about the possibility of leaving medicine behind. For some reason, it feels like a taboo subject. I know medics are a dedicated bunch with a strong sense of duty, but I sometimes wonder when this starts to become our weakness as well as our strength. It’s still a bit unusual to hear about doctors leaving. I can’t really speak for everyone else, but I do feel obligated to not tread the beaten path, to find a lifestyle that suits me. I’m looking forward to being around other like-minded people who share some of the same internal struggles that I’ve been facing.

I’ll probably be limited to how much I can see and do because I’ll be helping out. But it’s better than nothing. The event takes place in London, over the course of two days. I’ll have to get there a day before, to help prepare.

It’s weird, I knew this was a yearly event so I’d been waiting a while for the event details to be released and then when they were, I was initially hesitant: a) it was in London which meant I’d have to travel down and stay overnight, which is costly b) the ticket prices were more than I was expecting. On its own, I could probably have bit the bullet and paid for them but adding accommodation and travel and no doubt all the other costs along the way meant that I was going way over what I was prepared to spend. Just as I’d made up my mind not to go, I came across a small ‘volunteers’ sign.

I had to do a quick interview over the phone, which I tried to fit into my lunch break. And halfway through morning clinic my phone just turned itself off. Cue: mini frantic crisis. Literally, no warning. Just turned itself off and wouldn’t come back on again. The battery wasn’t low either. I wouldn’t have minded if this had happened on any other day, but seriously, a couple of hours before I’m waiting for a call. Sacré bleu! Long story short, after a lot of troubleshooting, panicking and Googling, I was able to have the interview, wow them and start afternoon clinic on time.

The idea of networking makes me nervous, but I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a skill I don’t have, might be useful to get out of my comfort zone and learn it. If anyone is interested in the event have a look at the Medic Footprints site and I’m also helping to sell some tickets as well here. I’ll probably write a piece afterwards as well to let you all know how it went.

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Medicine – An Art?

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

I recently had a long consultation with a patient. He was struggling with a variety of symptoms which he’d been investigated for and despite multiple scans he hadn’t received the answers he’d hoped for. This had started to affect his mood.

He talked about his career briefly and how much he enjoyed his work as a mathematician. He felt it suited his personality as he found comfort in knowing that there were set outcomes for every question. A complex equation could be brought to a definitive answer. Unlike medicine, where often symptoms were left unexplained and the only option was to learn how to cope. All the while wondering: will it worsen? Will it ever improve? Will it become something else?

He said something else that caught my attention, ‘I guess that’s why they say medicine is more an art than a science’. I’ve come across that phrase a few times and I’ve never stopped to actually think what it meant. But after he said it, I felt this dawning realisation. Like the feeling of suddenly working out the answer to an exam question the day after. Just talking to the patient in front of me, and watching him almost crumble under the weight of several uncertainties, it reminded me yet again how important it is to have these open conversations.

Treating a condition goes beyond just treating a part of the body. Every time we try to help, and we dive in with good intentions sometimes we cause more issues. Some therapies don’t work and sometimes there are side effects. So, we trial different treatments and hope for the best. But there has to be a balance, an awareness of the impact that this might have on an individual. I think good doctors are the ones who truly put their patients at the centre of decision making and try to maintain that balance whilst juggling the multiple other issues each patient brings (family, job, finances). That is the art.

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