Recently, I reviewed a patient in A&E with abdominal pain. She was with her husband and neither of them spoke English well. When I was taking the history of her symptoms, I tried to break down my questions as simply as I could. Plenty of gesturing and as much non-verbal communication as my imagination would allow. With all of that, it was still pretty difficult. Some of her answers were conflicting which meant I had to go back and clarify things again and again. After that I examined and took some bloods. I explained that we’d run some tests and then I’d come back to discuss it all with them. Her husband called me a good doctor and thanked me.
I didn’t really register it at the time. I sort of responded with an absent-minded smile and placed them back in the waiting area. After blood results came back and she’d had an x-ray to rule out anything serious, I explained that I was treating her as a urinary tract infection, again with a lot of gesturing. Then both her and her husband thanked me so emphatically and kept calling me a good doctor.
And that’s when I realised that they really meant it. The first time the husband said it after just taking the history and examining his wife, I hadn’t taken it seriously because at that point, I hadn’t actually done anything. When it was all done and I was sending them home with antibiotics they were so grateful and kept on praising me. I didn’t feel like I’d done anything to deserve so many compliments.
Maybe they appreciated how much effort I took to take her history despite the language barrier. Maybe it was the way I communicated, or how I spoke.
Am I a good doctor? I don’t know. Sometimes on a bad day, it doesn’t feel like it. Some of the shifts I’ve experienced haven’t all been sunshine and rainbows. And on those days, days that are just a series of consecutive blows, where it feels like I can’t seem to do anything right, those days are the toughest. And I feel like anything but a good doctor.
I know I get a lot of my self-esteem from doing things well, whether it’s writing, baking or fixing a patient’s problem and sending them home. Being a good doctor though, is more than just being a nice doctor, I think you need to have good clinical skills as well. I just don’t think I’m there yet. And I know it doesn’t help to compare, but some moments I can’t help but look at other F2s. Ones who seem to have everything together and go about everything so confidently. On those days that I’m feeling low, that really helps to cement those feelings.
This week, I’ve tried to put things into perspective. I’ve been a doctor for nearly 17 months now, I can’t expect to know everything and be everything. It’ll take time and a lot of patience.