Confessions of a Junior Doctor: My Thoughts

Confessions of a junior doctor Photograph: Ryan Mcnamara/Channel 4
Photograph: Ryan Mcnamara/Channel 4

It’s hard, sometimes, to put into words the constant turmoil of being a junior doctor. What I feel is a jumble of inaudible noise and frustration, yet the only way for me to translate it is to lay it out orderly, word after word, sentence by sentence because:

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doesn’t make any sense. Maybe that’s why people prefer visuals, a picture speaks a thousand words. But what about video?

Episode 1

I sat down to watch Confessions of a Junior Doctor.

I was 5 minutes in to the first episode and I had to stop watching. It’s the beginning of August and it’s the F1s’ first week as doctors. Their wide-eyed enthusiasm is difficult to watch. I wonder if I looked like that, so optimistic and clueless. It was almost like looking back at myself, several months ago.

I kept pausing the programme at moments that touched a nerve. One of that being Sam, an F2. He said he didn’t have time to speak to each patient for 20 minutes, because there were so many others to see. Pause: I’ve been there. Seeing someone say my thoughts back to me behind a screen is a weird sensation. There have been times where a patient has caught me after the ward round and inquired about their management plan and I almost want to hit myself. The fact that they actually need to ask means I’ve not done my job properly. It pains me to try to squeeze enough patients before 12. It’s a difficult ordeal.

The same doctor, Sam, decides not to apply for training in the UK and he followed with “I want what anybody wants. I want to be able to do the job that I’m trained to do. I want to be respected,” he pauses, “I want to be happy.” Sometimes I feel so guilty for even thinking about my happiness but when your job forms such a big part of your waking hours, shouldn’t happiness be a part of it? Can I truly be happy and still leave the ward with a heavy heart?

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d recommend giving it a watch.

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The Train Journey

The train journey (from Edinburgh) was interesting. I’d gotten on ready to claim my rightful place but I eventually had to move and give up my window and table seat.

I was sitting with two other passengers: a woman and a man. At first I thought they’d arrived together because he was mid-conversation when I approached the table. I caught the end of his sentence about being torn between two places: Lancaster and I can’t remember the other place. It was clearly an emotional topic. I just assumed this conversation must have begun before they’d boarded the train (because we’d all got on at the same stop).

He was speaking so gruffly and erratically and the woman still hadn’t spoken. I realised at that point, she probably didn’t know him. *sighs inwardly* I was hoping for a quiet journey. He got up to let me sit by the window, then sat back down beside me and continued his one-sided conversation. It was fragmented and sort of made sense but I wasn’t paying too much attention. It felt like he was speaking his thoughts old loud, but it was awkward because we were all sitting around a table in really close proximity to each other. In my mind, I kept wondering: is he talking to us or… at us…or to himself…?

I thought it couldn’t get any more weird but we then descended onto new levels. He began asking me questions. Normally, I don’t mind engaging in friendly chit-chat, but there’s usually a nice opening like ‘hey’ or some remark about the weather or something neutral to get the ball rolling. I don’t know if he was drunk (I couldn’t smell any alcohol) or whether he just had an eccentric personality but his line of questioning made me uncomfortable and it seemed it made the lady in front of me uncomfortable as well because she quickly came to my rescue and asked him to stop.

I’d been caught off guard. I was trying to formulate a polite way to tell him to stop. But in that moment where my brain was trying to process what was happening and also think of an appropriate response: polite but firm, I just mumbled answers. I wanted to make sure I didn’t over react. So, I was in awe at how quickly she came to my aid. Then after, she asked me if I was ok, and I mouthed that I was.

I sat there and contemplated moving. I was wedged in. He was sitting beside me and the table (and the other lady) were in front of me. If I wanted to move, I’d have to engage with him again. The journey was three hours long and we were less than 20 minutes in. I could sit there and just ignore his ramblings or I could move. A younger me would have stayed, too embarrassed to move or to offend anyone else and just suffer silently .

I moved. I deserve the right to travel in peace. Plus, it was 2 in the afternoon and there were barely any other passengers so it didn’t make any sense to sit in what was essentially an empty carriage with bad company.

I’m thankful for that woman and how quickly she shut him down. I think sometimes, it takes someone on the outside looking in to realise that something isn’t right. So, I’m really, really grateful.

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Travelling

I decided to do something out of the blue. I’ve picked the destination, booked the ticket and the hotel. And though it’s not far, it’s to a new place/country I’ve never been before and on my own. A few firsts.

Why?

  1. I have travel envy. Seeing other people visiting new places, it makes me want to travel. Swiping through Instagram makes me feel inspired to look up cheap flights and dream.
  2. It’s hard to find people to travel with. I’ve made the mistake before of travelling with a bunch of people. There were a lot of arguments and tantrums. It’s not an experience I want to repeat.
  3. It’s hard to work around schedules and people are busy. After a few attempts, things just never panned out which is ok. Plus, with our kind of schedule (nights, on calls and the like) finding time takes a lot of forward planning and effort.
  4. It’s a trial run. There are loads of places I eventually want to visit: South Africa, Rio, Tokyo, New Zealand. I want to try to work myself up to the more far flung areas by starting small. I’m hoping I can build up my courage.When it came to booking the tickets, the worried part of me went in to overdrive, and I nearly talked myself out of it.
  5. I want some time away. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. I just want to take it easy and not think about the wards or hospital or the last few months.
  6. I want the peace and the quiet. Living with my family, it can feel like I don’t get the chance to just be by myself which makes me cranky and irritable. A few days on my own might be just what I need.

I haven’t said where I’m going yet, but you might be able to guess…

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Lately

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

I’ve piled on a lot of expectations, all with good intentions, but now I’m struggling with constantly falling short. My goals aren’t outlandish, they’re the same old ‘eat healthier, drink more water’ mixed in with other less standard stuff like ‘write two blog posts a week’.

I don’t help myself though, because I complicate things. Take eating healthier as an example: I look up a few new recipes (which alone probably takes a few hours) and try make them all on the same day. Too much, too quickly. I’m not that great a cook, so why am I suddenly trying to make Michelin star meals on a Sunday. Because even if I can manage to do it once, I can’t do it every week. I can’t sustain that. Currently, I have around 5 cookbooks from the library all siting in a dusty corner of my room. The idea of flicking through one of them, rushing to the store to get the ingredients and then the disappointment of it not looking anything like the picture, exhausts me to the point where I give up, temporarily.

But It’s what I do. It’s the same with blogging. I wanted to change it so I got a new blog and I became obsessed with making it perfect and doing all the right things. Then I became overwhelmed and had to take a step back.

It’s a cycle. Excitement, overexert, fall back, begin again. In a weird way, it means I don’t really give up because I usually always start again, but it isn’t an ideal way to approach anything.

I think the best way forward for me is simplifying my goals. If it starts to feel like too much hard work I know that I’ll abandon it. Particularly if I’m taking on several things at the same time. So, that’s what I’m working towards: simplifying.

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5 Awkward Situations I Always Find Myself In

I can be really awkward sometimes, it’s painful. But I can also have a laugh at my expense so I thought why not just write it all out for the internet’s pleasure? These are the 5 awkward situations I often find myself in…

  1. Pretending I haven’t seen someone so that I don’t have to make awkward conversation. Does anyone else do this? You kind of know someone (but not really) because you work in the same place or you’ve walked past them enough times to recognise their face, but don’t actually know them know them. Every time you see them you might say ‘hey, how are you’ and they go ‘hey, I’m fine thanks, how are you’ and that’s probably as far as you go in the way of conversation. If I don’t think the other person has seen me, I might  try to avoid them by going a different way. ( I never do it to be rude.)
  2. Those awkward door moments. The times where you approach a door and someone else has already gone through, but they keep the door open for you because they see you coming (even though you’re a fair bit away). You, in turn, quicken your pace a bit (so as not to keep them waiting) and you start half-running half-walking towards the door. Awkward. But, I do the same thing sometimes. I wait at the door, holding it open for someone else to go through the same awkward skipping/running manoeuvre. It’s an entirely different scenario if you’re helping an old man or lady with a walking stick.
  3. Calling someone by the wrong name. I am so much better at names than I used to be. Sometimes my mind just says the wrong thing and I don’t know why. The other day, I called one of my colleagues by the wrong name. I know his name. Why would I just randomly call him something else? Another time, in medical school, I introduced my clinical partner (they put us in pairs) to a patient, with the wrong name. *cries inwardly*
  4. Walking in the wrong direction. I regularly walk in the wrong direction (forget why), correct myself and walk the other way. Then I remember why I started walking in the other direction in the first place but I’m aware of how crazy I’ll look if I turn back, so I keep going in the wrong direction.
  5. Eating lunch by myself. Enough said.

 

I feel like I should title this with a part 1 or something, because I can pretty much guarantee there’s plenty more awkward to come. Maybe make it into a series.

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