Hello everyone! I am sure you are all glad to know I am still around, although I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking I had disappeared off the face of the earth. I am now finished with my second hospital rotation and thought I would reflect upon how my first rotation went.
So, how did it go? Did I love every minute and saved hundreds of lives? Ahhh, no and no. The truth is, throughout my first few weeks as a doctor I was tired, frustrated and wondering whether I really wanted to do this for the next half a century. I’m doing better now, (before anyone thinks I’ve given up on a career before it’s even started) but loving my job is still very much a work in progress.
There is nothing in medical school that can ever really prepare you for life as an intern, especially starting on busy general medicine ward in a metro hospital you have never stepped foot in before. In my first two weeks on the unit, our team members kept changing for various reasons and the ward rounds would consistently finish well into the afternoon. By 12PM I’d see the other teams walking back to the office, coffee cups in hand, whilst we were still running around, with me following behind pushing a heavy computer whilst trying to write notes. We were inefficient primarily due the fact that, unlike the other teams, we would do the ward round as one big group instead of splitting into two and each seeing half of our patient list. And despite having upwards of 4 people traipsing around (which was not conducive to social distancing regulations either), I would be the only one ever writing notes and doing the administrative work. There was many a time where I would be furiously trying to record everything whilst enacting the plan AND also trying to answer questions whilst everyone else calmly stood around watching me. I understand that as an intern it is my responsibility to do all the menial administrative tasks, but I would have been extremely grateful for anyone to have offered some help. Especially considering I was new to the hospital and was still trying to find my bearing. This meant I often had unfinished notes saved that I would have to return to later in the day to clean up, hours after the patient had been seen. This was not only bad for patient care, but made me feel slow and incompetent, and if I hadn’t divulged this to my co-intern (who thankfully validated my concerns) I would have been left feeling as if it was my own fault.
The other issue with having ward rounds that finish so late in the day is that it left little to no time to complete the relevant tasks discussed during the round. These are the actual important things, making sure referrals to other specialties are made properly, results are chased and investigations are scheduled. If I am trying to expedite a CT scan to take place within the same day, calling radiology at 3PM to get it booked within the next two hours will only get me laughed at. And I know that from experience. As a result, I would consistently not eat lunch or dinner due to my terrible mentality of “I’ll eat right after I finish this one task”, and sometimes return home at 10PM having only had one meal at 6AM that day. So I was a rather unhappy, tired and hungry person for a little while and the thought of going back to an 80-hour week after seven days off would always spark dread and despair in my heart.
But it did get better. With time my team became more consistent, and there were a few days where we finished at a reasonable time and I didn’t feel like I was spending the entire afternoon chasing my own tail and fighting the inevitable overtime I would be doing. I still ended up doing many unpaid hours, but that is a widespread issue in many hospitals that we are all aware of and still trying to address. Although I disliked the system and environment I worked in, I liked most of the the people and we all got along very well. I was never screamed at or ridiculed for making mistakes and I know I will always have some friendly faces in the hospital I can talk to. I became more efficient with jobs and started to remember patient details quicker. I still had shitty days and moments where I wanted to rewind time and make different decisions, but I now look back at my time on general medicine with almost a strange sense of fondness. I had some wonderful moments with patients and those times where I felt like I had done something useful for someone, were times that made a bad day bearable.
To be honest, I had actually started a draft of this post months before, but for some reason never finished it. Reading back on it now, I am incredibly relieved I had not impulsively sent it out to the world then. It was a complete, uninhibited stream of frustration, complaints and resentment, all condensed into the span of a 750 word post. My unhappiness was concentrated into a verbal assault designed to spark sympathy and incredulity. Perhaps it may still read that way to you, but trust me, there’s been much editing and smoothing since. Mainly because I am no longer the same sad, sleep-deprived Helen I was before and have had time to reflect upon my own shortcomings and calm down. Whilst I still have my doubts of whether or not I am truly cut out to thrive in this world, I have no doubt this will form an important stepping stone in a long journey towards finding my drive and purpose.
So, where am I now? I am currently on annual leave and just finished working in the emergency department and it was… an interesting experience. I appreciate the specialty and certainly enjoyed the autonomy, but I know with certainty it is not for me in the long-term. I much prefer taking more thorough histories and having some continuity of care without feeling the pressure of meeting quotas. In addition, I am flabbergasted that it is almost halfway through the year and soon I will once again be choosing my future and putting in job applications for next year. All those nerves and pressure to market myself as an investable doctor will come flooding back and this time I will have to make an important decision. Do I want to do a medical or a surgical year? At this stage… I don’t know. I really don’t. And it concerns me that I am so indecisive. Whilst a medical year would provide so much learning and I may enjoy it more, a surgical year is required for admission into the radiology specialty, which is something that currently interests me. Of course I can choose to do both and do the other the year after (and there’s no problems with that), but I still wish I could decide with conviction and know exactly what I want to do. Anyways, I will try to keep everyone updated, have a great day!