I don’t consider myself a selfish person.
I have my moments, sure. For a busy person, I can take laziness to a whole new level. My bed is one of my favourite places. But I’m generally pretty aware of my fellow human beings, and try to look out for them, and make their lives easier if I can.
I’ve spent ten years of my life in higher education now. I’ve been actively working towards a career in medicine, via nursing and gaining experience, for 8. Yes, they have been eight of the most incredible years of my life, but also eight of the hardest. I’ve lost two siblings, two grandparents, an uncle and far too many friends. I’ve put off dental work because I wasn’t able to afford even the NHS costs. I’ve moved the length of the country alone, had relationships fall apart because of my devotion to my career plans, and lived counting pennies at the end of the month all too many times. I’ve become disabled, partly thanks to hours on my feet traipsing up and down wards. I’m 28, watching many of my friends get married and have babies, and I’m delighted for them all, but I do feel a pang of having missed out on that in my twenties.
It’s not all about becoming Dr Barham-Brown. There are FAR easier ways to get respect. It’s not about rising up social classes or feeling like a hero (though there’s a little part of me that likes that, I’ll be honest). I joke that the amount my family have cost the NHS, this is my only way of paying off their debt. But that’s the beauty of the NHS; for us, there is no debt. The millions of pounds my nuclear family have cost (and I’m sure it’s well over a million, when you count ITU stays, medications, huge operations…), and the huge amount I cost as an individual (Gabapentin doesn’t grow on trees you know), I will never have to pay back. I could spend the rest of my life badmouthing the NHS, overuse it, make it harder for the institution every day, but I would still never have to give them back a penny. Just pay my taxes and sleep safe in the knowledge that I will be cared for, my loved ones looked after.
If all goes to plan, I will qualify in a matter of months. The culmination of years of devotion bordering on masochism is almost upon me, with the start of a new adventure within my grasp, and I feel utterly… apathetic.
I want to get excited. I deserve that. I want a big graduation party, and to be planning my first paycheque present to myself (a big squidgey armchair, if you’re interested). I want to be ranking my jobs for next year with a sense of anticipation, attending conferences, plotting research proposals, but I just can’t do it. I can’t let myself. If anything, thinking too much about it makes me want to cry.
I don’ t know what I’m getting myself into anymore. As a woman who frantically plans every aspect of her life, I am utterly clueless and I hate it. This is partly because of the system as it is: I have applied for work across the country, and won’t know until next summer where I’ll be working or when. But I always knew that would be the case, and will handle it. Only now, I don’t know what I’ll be paid, or the hours I will have to work for that pay. I don’t know what the staffing will be like, how much support I will have in making huge decisions for my patients, or what the expectations seniors have of me will be, and certainly not whether I’ll be able to meet them.
What’s worse is that every student graduating this year with me, from every medical school in the UK (and some abroad) are in exactly the same boat. And we have no idea when we will know.
I’m apathetic and I’m scared. I’m scared that I am physically harming myself by entering this profession. I’m scared that I’ve started not wanting to attend lectures, or even get out of bed some days. I’m scared that I seem to be far more ’emotional’ at the moment, and not sleeping properly. I’m scared that this situation is pushing me closer to Depression everyday, or that I may already be there. I have had 2 weeks holiday since Christmas, which were spent waiting for exam results (which isn’t a great way to relax). I’m exhausted, and I want to cry RIGHT NOW. I know that if I give into it though, I may not be able to stop. I am perpetually on the edge, and I am so sick of it.
I want to get angry. I want to march right up to the Department of Health and scream at anyone who will listen, to tell them how much of my life, my wonderful, colourful, vibrant life, is being wasted on stress and tears and exhaustion and yet I know that it would make no difference at all (bar possibly getting me struck off before I start). I want to sit here and go through all the arguments against this contract yet again, to tell you all how totally, abjectly unfair it is. How I am terrified that I am going to harm someone, a patient who trusts me literally with their life, because I’m going to be exhausted and under more pressure than I can handle. But I can’t. People have done it far better in far more blogs, news programmes and articles than I possibly can, and frankly, I can’t summon up the energy again. I can’t even summon up the energy to throw something at BBC Breakfast, which is currently giving more time to The Chewing Gum Action Group than they have to our government tearing apart the NHS in front of our barely open eyes.
I’m not a selfish person. I really do care about people, whether or not I’ve met them. I know that I might be assaulted by a patient doing my job. It’s a real and present risk that we receive training for. I just wasn’t anticipating it happening before I started.
If you want the reasons junior doctors are against the new contract, check out https://www.facebook.com/ourlivesyourhands
I have sat here for ages trying to think of helpful or insightful words to write, and I’ve completely failed. All I have to say is: I read everything you write, and you help me to understand and care about things I otherwise wouldn’t even think about. (I thought of you today as I navigated Bank station – about how I take it for granted that I’ll be able to get around places, and how lucky I am to be able to). We need more doctors like you in the NHS. I hope that it becomes a place that you are able to build the career and the life you deserve.
(All a bit over-emotional from someone you knew slightly at university? Maybe. That’s one of the strangenesses of the modern world, I guess).
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Thank you! Really appreciate that, especially when I’m having a pretty crappy day (you may be able to tell!). All of this blog-writing lark is terribly cathartic, so if anyone else can get anything from them all the better! Thanks again.
The following is adapted from sage advice given to my by a Consultant, Professor and Dean at my alma mater (which by the way, was known as ‘the finest in the land’ ;))
In these troubling times, it’s hard to keep perspective on matters, your career or indeed your life. But remember this: health secretaries come and go, the degree you are about to complete and the profession you are about to remember, has been around for thousands of years, and will exist for many more years, even after the current batch of politicians has passed away.
The skills you learn and the values you hold will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career, where ever in the world/country it may take you!
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You honestly have no idea how much I needed to read that.
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