Tips For New Doctors: Things To Do During Your Last Summer Before Internship


Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of finding out that I had passed my final year of med school; and on Friday a new group of young doctors was born. I’m so excited to welcome them as my colleagues!


As I write this, I’m sure that most of them are in a deep slumber trying to catch up on all the sleep they missed out on this year. I am jealously thinking about the summer holiday they have ahead of them, so I made a list of things I think one should do before starting your first official job as a doctor.


If you don’t sleep a lot during your last big holiday I might actually disown you.

2. Do what you’ve been dreaming of all year

In my case it was spending the festive season with my family; for others, it was traveling. DO IT NOW. You deserve it.

3. Declutter

Chances are you’ll be moving into a new place – maybe even a new city! Instead of chucking everything your own into boxes, spend some time going through the detritus of your life and getting rid of things you don’t need or don’t use. Haven’t worn that all year? Chuck it. It’s the age of minimalism – dust is gross and moving companies are expensive. If it’s old and gross throw it away; if someone might still use it, donate it to a charity shop.


Some awesome articles here – click for source.

4. Buy a car

(or start looking) I didn’t have a car, and I waited too long to start the process of getting one. If you have your formal letter of appointment from the hospital, most financiers will forego the requirement of “three payslips”. Trust me: test-driving cars when you’re post-call because you avoided it all summer is NOT ideal.

5. Sort out your: banking, investments, life insurance, medical aid, etc.

As in #4, this kind of admin is REALLY hard to get to when you’re trying to settle into your new job as a doctor. Spend some time trying to understand all the financial jargon and while you’re at it, make sure you save everything in a dedicated folder on your computer so you can access it easily.

6. Get into an exercise routine

My theory is that it’s easier to adjust a routine than to start one. No doubt your call schedule will wreck havoc with you; but if you are at least comfortable with some form of exercise before starting your busy intern-life, it will be easier to adjust. (And I trust that as young doctors, I don’t need to convince you of the importance of exercising.)

7. Get Mom to teach you how to make some easy meals

I mean, you will be able to afford ready-made meals, but surely you have better things to spend your new salary on?

8. Get a tan

I mean, without inducing melanoma of course. You have a whole month to laze in the sun. Enjoy it!


9. Get your scripts renewed, and attend to your immediate health needs

You’d be amazed how easy it is to postpone appointments when it comes to your own health: GP, Gyno, Dentist, Optometrist… Get your six-month repeats now, order your new glasses now, get your cavities filled now, and get your Loop now. You’ll thank me later.

10. Make certified copies of all your documents

Come 31 December, you’ll suddenly be informed that you need certified copies of everything (yes, including your Matric certificate, so start hunting for that!) as well as a curriculum vitae when you report to hospital for the first time. And believe me, the last place you want to be on New Years’ Eve is a police station. Consider yourself informed. :)

11. You do you, babe

I can give you all the advice I want, but ultimately it’s your final long holiday to enjoy: so do what you need to do!


A Sadder Stabbed Heart


By Redmer Hoekstra

When I got a call one morning at 06h00 to notify me of a stabbed heart in Trauma, I was not filled with trepidation like the last time I received such a call. I thought, “I’ve done this before. I know what to do.”

But I did also get the call while I was busy crushing an arresting person’s ribs, so it took me a while to get to him.

When I arrived in Trauma, the stabbed patient had also arrested. The Trauma docs were already doing compressions. We put in a chest drain. We got him back for a few minutes. I called to theatre, but they were already scrubbed on another emergency. Our hospital only has one emergency theatre after-hours.

As the most junior in the room, I ran to blood bank to get emergency blood.

While I was away, our patient coded again. The doctors and nurses in Trauma resuscitated, again. One of my seniors briefly scrubbed out of theatre to perform an emergency thoracotomy.

We lost the patient.

It’s what I get for thinking, “I’ve got this”.

Every patient is different. This one was a little older than the last one. Maybe his reserves weren’t as good. There was delay in getting him to hospital – not much, but some.

Strangely, the thing that broke me was the blood-bank technician’s response when I returned the unused blood to her and told her that the patient demised.

“I’m so sorry. I thought I was fast enough.”

I told her it was not her fault – how could it be? And she had been fast. But I don’t know if she believed me.

And so we all carry the burden of the patients we lose.

What If Everything You Knew About Breastfeeding Was Wrong?


24612267How does one react to seeing a book cover that claims breast feeding is “big business and bad policy”?

If you’re me, you request a review copy of that book, fully intending to expose how wrong it is.

As a medical student, one of the important things I was taught again and again is this: BREAST IS BEST. We were given a nearly 100-page document to study about infant feeding during second year. We were expected to know the constituents of human milk and be able to compare it to cow’s milk and formula. We had to memorise tables of the various formulas on offer and their indications. In fourth year, an entire oral OSCE station was dedicated to breastfeeding.

Breast was best and formula-feeding was undesirable, and it all made perfect sense to me; and of course I never read up the literature because our professors had surely done that FOR us. Continue reading

Book Review: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau


20550148As someone who was a teenager in high school when Facebook and Twitter (and even MySpace) started out, I feel like a bit of a pioneer in terms of social media. My generation was the one that had to figure out how drastically the battlefields of high school are altered when social media enters the picture.

NEED appealed to me because of that, and because it had all the ingredients for a good YA thriller: cyber anonymity, an unknown antagonist, and of course: a small-town high school.

And I was not disappointed.

I DEVOURED this book – something that doesn’t often happen because work and yada-yada-yada, but I could NOT put it down. I fell asleep with it last night and then finished the last 10% during my lunch break today. That’s how into it I was. Continue reading

Recovery, Divided or Together


The burns’ ward in our hospital is kind of special. It is the only ward that hosts men, women and children together. It is the only ward where everyone has exactly the same problem. It is one of our cleanest wards, and has a high staff-to-patient ratio.

But it’s not a pleasant place. The smells and the pain levels are hard for me to witness, so being a patient there must be so much worse.

I cannot help but notice, whenever I go in there, that the male patients are all sitting around one of the tables, telling stories and having a good time. In the adjoining room, the women all sit by their own beds, doing their own things.

It’s just so… jarring.

As an introvert, I totally understand the need for alone-time. But I NEVER see the women in this ward hanging out.

Support is so important in recovery.

I just wonder why they keep away from one another.

Book Review: An Epidemic of Empathy


“The best strategies in healthcare begin with empathy.”

An Epidemic of Empathy in Healthcare: How to Deliver Compassionate, Connected Patient Care that Creates a Competitive Advantage by Thomas H. Lee was kind of a mouthful of a book. It attracted me, predictably, because I am serious about empathy in healthcare.

I’ve seen many examples of healthcare where empathy is lacking, and it breaks me. And, as I have progressed in my own career, I have witnessed in myself instances where my ability to empathise has been eroded, too. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for medical students and young doctors to notice how they become hardened during the early years of their clinical training. Continue reading

I’m Writing Lists This November


I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

I participated for the past two years and performed – well, kind of dismally. I could go on to diss the event for being unrealistic, but I know a lot of people write well during NaNo. Well, it isn’t for me. I do so want to finish one of my works in progress, but it’s not going to happen in a month, and most certainly not a November month.

27936460160164924zmRVgud0c Continue reading