And here we go again. I’ve fallen back into my old habits. History has a way of repeating itself.

My last day of residency was triumphant, I had made it. Somehow I’d slogged through two years of sheer hell (and it was hell for me) and successfully completed residency.

My reward? Being able to say I had done it, and also be able to do more specialised work…as a doctor.

This reward isn’t as great when you really can’t see yourself working as a doctor in any capacity. Yet I’ve enjoyed my months off, I’ve been relaxing, healing.

Then I thought why not make some money? I’m considered useful for certain hospitals now at my level. I was being repeatedly asked to work for one particular hospital, they desperately needed people. So I accepted a contract. I’m a casual doctor now, not quite as busy as the past two years, but still working hard.

Ah…that’s why

This is when I realised that history is cyclical in nature. And that I forget very easily.

It only took one shift to realise why I don’t like medicine. 10 hours. By the fourth shift I was in tears at home, wondering why the hell I said yes again. Thinking I’m more senior now, I’m in control of my hours, I’m getting paid better…it made me think I could handle it.

Yet history repeats itself. Already there are patients complaining. Husbands who are journalists threatening to go to the media for waiting too long. Misdiagnoses. Angry, indignant people who are not satisfied with their medical care. Countless patients waiting for hours. Walking into my shift to see two dead bodies being wheeled out, police around as it’s a coroners case.

That is the nature of my work.

It’s not as simple as showing up, doing your best, and heading home. Your best is often not enough in the thankless game that is medicine.

I did do some good. I diagnosed an elderly lady with appendicitis, and she turned out to have a necrotic appendix beginning to perforate intra-operatively. It was a good find, as she had dementia and denied feeling abdominal pain on history. I think she would have died from sepsis if it wasn’t diagnosed that evening.

Yet ‘thank you’ and ‘good job’ are phrases you don’t hear often (the previously mentioned patient didn’t even know where she was). I don’t do what I do for praise, but it is disheartening to only hear abuse and complaints. When you spend hours working as hard as you can, trying to not miss a thing.

Photo by Maja Kochanowska on Unsplash

Medicine is high stakes

Recently, I had a friend over for dinner. She was meant to be working, but her job was one that can be done remotely. My friend set up her laptop and ensured it appeared that she was online. We ate, watched a movie and chatted. At most she wiggled her mouse.

In medicine there’s no option like that. It’s high stakes and one mistake is enough to involve medico-legal issues, emails to lawyers, and at the worst unexpected deaths and police investigations.

Why am I doing this to myself again?

Because I forgot. I forgot how much it can suck. How little reward I get out of it. I forgot that I don’t care about the money.

After one week back, it’s all come flooding back. It’s not about the pay, the amount of hours worked or how nice my colleagues are. The bottom line is I cannot work in a job that is so high stakes. Nothing in this career is worth the amount of anxiety and stress I generate when things go wrong. And things go wrong all the time.

I’ll write in more length about this, and how countless of doctors get at least one complaint annually. GPs being the doctors who receive the largest amount of complaints…which makes me think why on Earth would I decide to be a GP?

I can’t do clinical medicine

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to figure out my future. I know what I’m interested in, what I dislike. Yet the path to what I want is a little hazy.

One thing that is becoming clearer and clearer is that I can’t do clinical medicine. Without a doubt. You can do your job well 99% of the time, but it only takes 1% to make your days filled with stress, guilt and misery. People expect perfection in doctors. Humans make mistakes. It’s not easy to align this.

The narrative that I’m being fed constantly is false – that my life will start once I have my fellowship.

Life is now. Fellow or not. Being back in medicine is crushing my soul. Dramatic as it sounds, it’s true. Appetite is shot, sleep disturbed. I’m actually amazed at how fast I’ve deteriorated.

Photo by Jaanus Jagom├Ągi on Unsplash

I’ve been lying to myself

When I wrote blog posts about caring for doctor’s wellbeing I mentioned meeting basic physical needs. I was terrible at achieving this when I was a full-time doctor. I blamed my lack of time and how busy my shift was on this.

Now I know it had nothing to do with that. The simple truth is that I become depressed. So down in how I feel that I don’t even care about caring for myself. I’m working casual, and I’ve already stopped eating. It’s not on purpose, I just stop feeling hungry.

I’ve really tried. I’ve given medicine my all. It’s been ten years of trying to make medicine work for me. Three years of professional medicine. I’ve never enjoyed it, I’ve never felt good within myself when doing it. The bottom line is that nothing is worth the stress I feel while practicing medicine.

It’s not me, it’s you

Sure, there will be doctors out there telling me to ‘just relax’. Or lawyers saying it’ll be fine…or psychologists saying it’s my own mental deficiencies causing this anxiety. Maybe some would venture to say that I will feel this stress in anything I try to do.

It’s not true though. I’ve worked a lot of jobs before medicine, and I never had this feeling. Retail, hospitality, sports coach, tutor, babysitter. Those are some of the jobs I’ve done, and I never felt bad like this. When someone yelled at me over their bad food, or forgotten order, I just apologised and moved on. A cold coffee is very small in the grand scheme of things.

Medicine is life or death, literally.

I also have had enough of starting work and seeing a dead body casually being wheeled out. Or certifying a death at 12am, needing to call a family I’ve never spoken to before. Asking a stranger if they want to be resuscitated if they were to have a cardiac arrest.

I don’t want to be a GP

GPs tell me the hospital sucks, that GP land is waaay better. Yet…I know it’ll be the same old. Maybe less intense, but the same stuff. GPs need to know everything, you have to cast your net wide and hope to not miss a thing. It’s only a matter of time someone has a misdiagnosis, or is unhappy with something.

Becoming a defensive doctor is the new norm, everyone is scanning everyone for pulmonary embolisms at the moment. No one has them, then the one time you don’t scan them they do have one. It’s enough to drive you insane.

Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

What do I want?

What do I want out of life? Honestly all I want is peace, tranquility and calm. Being able to sleep at night and enjoy a coffee in the morning. I don’t want money, fame or recognition. There is no lofty ambition to be the world’s best anything. I fell into my current job by being a teenager who thought it would be a good idea to help people, and by listening to adults tell me that I’m good at exams so I should be a doctor.

I’m ranting a little now, but it feels good to let it out. If you’re reading, which some of you are, I hope you can feel a bit better too. I know that my words have helped some people, and that is enough in itself.

More to come…