A Resident’s Tale
Guest Blog: Jackie Taylor, President Elect of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
There are a few defining days in our early lives. Leaving school, passing that elusive driving test, graduation – but none more memorable than the first day as a doctor.
Thinking of it now brings back incredibly clear memories. I awoke to a beautiful, sunny 1st of August feeling both excited and apprehensive about what lay ahead. My first post was at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, where on arrival I was given a pager, a rota and informed that I would be the House officer in Ward A. I also realised that I would be on call overnight, was on a “1 in 2” rota for the first month (this means on all overnight every second night while working all day each day- guess this is where the name “Resident” came from) and would be receiving and covering CCU overnight from 4pm. Ouch. I remember my first ward round with the registrar, the realisation that patients were pretty complicated, the very welcome post ward round tea and toast and then a sea of filing, writing blood forms and x-ray requests, taking bloods and inserting cannulae. I approached the evening with increasing trepidation. The night receiving and covering CCU was busy-the first cardiac arrest as a doctor is not one you will forget. Fortunately I had done an elective in cardiology and so had some basic training in CPR-at that time (unbelievably) it wasn’t taught as an undergraduate. Memories thereafter are a little more blurry, working through a fog of sleep deprivation and fatigue.
And yet …….despite the gruelling hours, baptism of fire and all the other faults , most of all I remember that 6 month post as one of the happiest most fulfilling times of my life. The sense of camaraderie and team working are unrivalled. We worked hard, we learned fast, we played hard and we made the whole experience as enjoyable as possible. Most importantly we looked after one another, and to this day some of my closest friends are my co-residents.
Much has changed in the intervening years, and the vast majority of the changes have been positive ones. Doctors in training in Foundation Year 1 now have a clear curriculum and competencies to achieve. They have defined clinical and educational supervision, a formal induction and preparation for practice or period of shadowing. Hours of work are now carefully controlled and monitored. The educational experience is undoubtedly better.
And yet…. with the move to shift patterns of work and frequent rotations I fear we have made it much more difficult to maintain that sense of camaraderie, of really feeling a sense of belonging and of being valued, despite everyone’s best efforts. We need to redress the balance-and bring back the team!
My advice to doctors on day 1 is first and foremost, do not be afraid to ask. You are not expected to know everything and there is no such thing as a silly question. Make sure that you know who to approach for help. Listen to the nursing staff-they have a wealth of experience and can be an enormous support.
From a practical perspective, wear comfortable clothes and shoes!! Don’t forget to eat and drink-a 10 minute break, even when you are busy will help you to work more effectively and efficiently -try to meet up with your colleagues to do this. I am a great fan of emergency chocolate and would recommend keeping a stash-though other healthier options are also acceptable!!
Finally, remember what a privilege it is to work in our profession and to care for patients and their families at some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Show compassion and kindness to them, to your colleagues and to yourself.
Good luck-it will all be fine.