This one time, at badEMfest18…

Remember that time I went to a little town (village??) called Greyton, with some friends, and had a blast?

It happened again.

This time, not as a student, but as a doctor. Then, Greyton enriched me. This time, it may well have changed my life. Or at least, my career. (Are they really two different things?)

badem-rd

I went to a conference called BAD EM Fest – Brave African Discussions in Emergency Medicine. “But you don’t even like Emergency Medicine,” my best friend said. Lies, damned lies! I don’t NOT like EM. I just find it terrifying. (For the record, there were HCPs from various specialties, not limited to EM.)

And I would have left it there, except that one of the organisers kept encouraging me to sign up (thanks, Kat), and it looked so fun. Where have you ever heard of a medical conference where attendees glamp (Google it), walk around barefoot, and go for twice-daily hikes in the mountains? Oh, and have live music shows in the evenings at dinner.

So with a little bit of encouragement from my friends, I shut my eyes tightly, told the little voice in my head that said, “BUT YOU HATE CROWDS” to shut up, and clicked “pay”.

I could tell you a lot of important stuff about the conference, but most of it has been said quite eloquently, by Penny Wilson, Andrew Tagg, Dan Roberts, Kaleb Lachenicht, and Simon Carley.

While I learned a whole lot, the reason badEMfest felt almost like a religious experience (minus the mandatory guilt and hell-fire), was a lot more personal.

After the first session, which included talks ranging from diversity to advocacy, I turned to my friend, May, and whispered, “No matter what happens now, this is already worth it.”

Here’s the thing about May, though: we have been friends on Twitter for years, but we only met in person that day. You wouldn’t have guessed it (and many people were surprised) because we knew each other’s lives so well. Gone are the days where “internet friends are not real friends”.

May is not the first Twitter-friend I have met in person, and she certainly was not the last: in those four days I met local and international healthcare professionals that I have followed (and admired) for years. It was not uncommon to ask a new face, “Who are you on Twitter?”

So it was at the end of the first day that I had a moment of clarity: These are my people.

And you will know how huge that is, if you’ve ever felt alone in medicine. If you’ve ever thought that you were alone in being affected by the non-clinical aspects of your patients’ lives. If you have ever felt impotent to effect real change. If you have ever felt victimised. If you have ever shouted unto the void, and received only an echo in exchange.

My depression means I often feel isolated – even when that is not the case. Because I have been afraid, and because depression told me that I was not worthy, I have not reached out to role models; I have not asked for advice when I could (should) have; I have often re-invented the wheel, and done so poorly.

To be fair, I did have a few nasty supervisors in my training. But at badEMfest, I saw how kindness permeates medicine. I met super-bosses. I met absolutely innovative people. I met some of the kindest, most compassionate clinicians.

Part of me was bitter – how had I been allowed to go so long without knowing that I was not alone? But in the face of overwhelming support, bitterness is so hard to hold on to. Instead, I’ve got an overwhelming urge to make sure that junior doctors and medical students get to know that they are not alone. To make sure that kindness outnumbers the nasties. Because it is easy to think that the slave-driving registrar is representative of the rest of medicine. But maybe they’re having a horrible time too. Everybody needs some kindness.

facc79c346f515cc4a52abdbeadb84a2

And I’ve got this bubble of excitement as I consider my next steps… because suddenly, anything is possible.

SaveSave

Advertisements

General Practice is not exciting, but it is fulfilling

c89fb6abd83261bdd15693fb042e1f49
By Lauren Squires, with permission. Click image for her Instagram.

As I enter into my third month of General Practitioner work, I find myself reflecting. I started with private GP locums to fill the gap til I got the job I wanted. But now I’m signing a contract and I’m here to stay – for at least another five months.

One evening, my housemate asked, “So, did anything interesting happen at work today?” When I responded in the negative, we laughed about how my work had become almost mundane compared to working in hospital and coming home with fascinating stories of grotesque injuries and life-saving surgeries practically every day. Continue reading “General Practice is not exciting, but it is fulfilling”

GP Work is Hard

One week of some GP locums and I am exhausted.

7b609ee5184afeee3a442d25e5549028I can spend 10 minutes per consultation if people have straight-forward tonsillitis or gastroenteritis.

But what about the parents who are hesitant about vaccinating? I need more than ten minutes to make an impact.

What about the woman whose pregnancy test was unexpectedly positive, and needs to discuss options? She might not have anyone else to discuss options with.

What about the myriad people with psychiatric illness? I need more than ten minutes to figure out if it’s depression, or if there is a history of hypomanic spells. Is it substance induced? Is there another general medical condition? Who can start someone on antidepressants after a ten minute consult? Continue reading “GP Work is Hard”

Tips for New Interns: First Week at Work

Last night I worked my last shift for Community Service. 1 January 2018 will mark three years since I walked into my first day of work. And on that day, more than 1,000 new interns will enter our workforce.

I remember the nerves the night before: being unable to sleep. Feeling like a fraud, like I had been allowed to graduate by accident. Worried that I would be labelled Worst Intern Ever; worried that I’d have awful colleagues. But I survived the first week, and eventually the first year, too.

And so will our new interns. I have some tips for those who need ’em.

64062aa6fd8336df8d9536c250fadde7 Continue reading “Tips for New Interns: First Week at Work”

8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey

I’m linking up with Jamie’s annual end of year bookish survey again this year.

I spent 11 months of this year without internet, so I’ve hardly reviewed any books, and posted about books rarely too. I also haven’t read much this year. It’s been a tough one. Jamie has a lot of questions, and I don’t have answers to them all, so I’ve actually left some of them out.

2017-book-survey Continue reading “8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey”

Are We Secretly Our Own Worst Enemies?

If you’ve been reading South African news, you’ll know that at least 300 interns and community service doctors stand to be unemployed next year, due to a lack of funded posts at accredited institutions.

Perhaps you read about our inhumane working hours last year.

Perhaps you have read about the overflowing hospitals where patients pile up in the corridors.

These are not new problems, we just hear about them more because doctors and patients have phones with cameras, and social media accounts.

IMG_4084

Continue reading “Are We Secretly Our Own Worst Enemies?”

The Threat of Fun-employment

In final year, we thought that getting an internship post at our desired hospital was the hardest – and most coveted – thing.

Two years later, we all tried to find a community service posting that would give us a foot into the door to our future specialties.

But we didn’t know that those were the easy parts. Then, we still pretty much had guaranteed employment (most of us, at least).

Then came the end of Community Service, and reality hit us in the face: we were on our own.

* * *

That’s where I am now. The government no longer “owes” me a job, and unless I find one, I’ll be unemployed come January 2018. People used to say, “There’s no such thing as an unemployed doctor.” These days, there are plenty of them, because freezing posts is a done thing. Continue reading “The Threat of Fun-employment”

Can I Be A Depressed Doctor?

Ever since I wrote about how going for therapy was my biggest gift to myself*, I’ve met with a few medical students to talk about the topic of mental health. Many of them were worried about their ability to make it through med school with their illness. Many were worried about the viability of a career in medicine with depression.

d57fcdfb544456e8bd23e50d48e641e9

When I was a student, there was a rumour that students with mental illness would be excluded from the course. We were informed by our senior students, and they by theirs, and thus the rumour was propagated. Continue reading “Can I Be A Depressed Doctor?”

South African Books To Read This Heritage Day

Because it’s Heritage Weekend, and I’m working tomorrow (the actual Heritage Day), and I haven’t posted anything bookish in a long time.

I continue to have a love affair with South African (and African continental) books. Below are some of my previous lists on the same topic. (This is not a ranked list. This is a list of more books I’ve discovered since my last list.) (Mh. I thought I had more than two of these…)

Continue reading “South African Books To Read This Heritage Day”