Why I left private practice for the public sector

Some of the greatest psychological stressors are said to include breakups, death, moving house, and starting a new job. Sometimes we choose one or more of these willingly, and hope to hell that the payoff will be worth it.

For two years, I worked in private general practice in Cape Town. The benefits of this kind of employment were sizeable – I made a living on relatively few hours, and had no overnight calls. I got to sleep like a normal person! I had a flexible schedule, and could always increase or decrease my hours as necessitated by my needs.

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The cons, however, were not insignificant. Any leave I took – sick leave, vacation, or for a course/conference – was unpaid. I was paid by the hour (and that has affected my taxes, too). I was often the only doctor at a practice, sometimes one of two. The patient-pressure was immense – I never managed to get a grip on seeing 4-6 patients in an hour. I simply was neither able nor willing to compromise patient care, nor my medico-legal accountability.

On the other hand, I did get to live in Cape Town. Cape Town! Although the city can be scary and inhospitable to newcomers, there is so much to do. I could never tire of it. As Murphy would have it, I made a lot of friends and found communities to slot into during the final few months.

But why did I ultimately decide to pack it all up, and move AGAIN?

Because I was miserable.

I am not going to unpack that misery now (maybe another day), but I soon found myself completely out of love with my work. I missed the sense of a team. I missed being able to discuss cases with colleagues, and having someone with whom to commiserate. I missed the somewhat academic environment of public hospitals. I care a great deal about primary healthcare and public health, but I found that I was swimming against whitewater rapids, and treading water was becoming more difficult by the day. Although I wasn’t working very many hours, I found myself constantly low and tired. Often, I would delay leaving for work until the very last minute, and then arrive late. My career seemed hopeless; I felt heavy and inert. 

In short: I hated my job.

I do not use that term lightly. In previous jobs, I had certainly had days when I hadn’t particularly enjoyed working. This was not that. Hating my job is probably one of the worst things that has ever happened to me, and unless you have experienced it, you cannot begin to imagine it (I certainly could not). I have very clear memories of LOVING being a doctor before, so I know that this had little to do with my profession, and more with the direction I was taking and the environment I was in.

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And now I get to work scrubs to work every day!

So when the call came to offer me a job in anaesthesia, the scales weighed heavily in favour of the new job. There was the matter of the city and the people I would be leaving behind – and I did not make that decision lightly. Ultimately, being unhappy at work was negatively impacting on all spheres of my life. I had to get out, or it would kill me.

And so, I said yes. I packed all my belongings for the fourth time in three years, to move to a small city with significantly fewer resources.

But I think I am happy here. I have completed two months of supervised work, and I am starting to have my own independent theatre slates. It has been extremely high-stress, and my confidence has on numerous occasions hit the very bottom of rock bottom. I often fall asleep on my couch in the early evenings, because my brain feels so fried from all the mental exertion.

But I love my job again.

And I cannot begin to explain what a game-changer that is.

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?)

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Continue reading “This one time, at badEMfest18…”

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”

Working in the Land of Milk and Honey

I recently realised that some of my posts have disappeared into thin air. I’m not sure how, but I’m reposting them courtesy of the web archive.

By some kind of dumb luck, I am doing my Community Service posting at an incredible children’s hospital in Cape Town, rather than the archetypal middle-of-nowhere clinic post we all expect for ComServe.

And it’s incredible.

This hospital is just something else. It’s public, but has so much private funding that it might as well be a private hospital. It gets a lot of private patients so clearly I’m not alone in my perception.

Some things that continue to blow my mind: Continue reading “Working in the Land of Milk and Honey”

Two Oceans Ultra Part 2: Race Review

It’s a week since running the Two Oceans Ultra and it still feels like a life-defining moment. I’m already looking forward to next year’s marathon, although my foot is still protesting. I figured I’d offer a few concise lines about particular aspects of the race:

Signing up:

For me, the process went so smoothly. I thought the interface was user-friendly and easy; but I do know that some people had big problems with signing up. The entries do fly, so for future reference, waiting is probably not the best idea. Especially if you’d rather enter for the half-marathon – those entries fly like hot-cakes!

Marketing:

The marketing team did such a great job of hyping everyone up and keeping one up to date. The OMTOM Magazine was superb and the social media pages well-maintained. The biggest flaw was a lack of interaction on social media with people who had complaints.

12924415_10153946065180661_3973261936145693581_n Continue reading “Two Oceans Ultra Part 2: Race Review”

Help Me Survive My Bad Life Choice

So a while ago, in the heat of a post-run “I can do anything” high, I signed up for the Two Oceans Marathon.

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If you don’t know me well: I started running in 2013 because it was the only sport I could do that didn’t require a huge financial investment.

It kind of grew on me a little. This past year was a good year for running. A while ago I just kept running and accidentally did a 21 km (half-marathon).

Anyway. The Two Oceans Marathon is an ultra at 56 km. It is on 26 March 2016.

I haven’t even run the qualifying marathon yet. I’ll do that in February.

It’s just that running has been really hard for me ever since I signed up.

Especially getting those long runs in… It’s just that considering I have at least one 24+ hour call a week, that means I’m out of action two days a week… leaving me five days to do four runs.

It’s hard. I’ve always just run for the sake of running, the only person I had anything to prove to being myself.

Suddenly I doubt myself every step of the way.

I feel like the Blerch is following me around wherever I run.

I need advice, running world!

 

Running Update (See What I Did There?)

What started as a pretty amazing year of running tapered down quickly.

Getting that IOD in March spelled disaster for my running. The nausea and constant myalgia pretty much put me out of it for four weeks straight. Winter was a shock to my system and it took me a while to get back into running when the cold set in; and not long after THAT I got a really bad bout of flu that essentially had me indoors for the month of August.

Excuses aside, my motivation to run WAS pretty low, too.

I recently read Tom Foreman’s My Year of Running Dangerously (review coming soon!) and that certainly upped my motivation in a big way. In fact, while I have always maintained that I had no desire to run a marathon… I now think I kinda sorta might want to do that.

The little trip to New York also, strangely, really helped my running. The Boy’s sister is big into trail running and we went running in Central Park every morning. It was fantastic! I find that when you run in a foreign country you don’t seem quite so foreign. Nobody tries to sell you crap while you’re running, for instance.

Continue reading “Running Update (See What I Did There?)”

I Left My Voice In Cape Town

Here’s one way I didn’t expect my first day back at work to go:

“Go home! You’re going to make the patients sick!”

Which I suppose makes sense since in the Orthopaedics wards, very few of our patients are actually SICK. They’re mostly just broken. And if they become sick we can’t discharge them and that spells disaster given our already-high patient load.

So here I am, in bed, drugged up on flu meds.

My break in Cape Town was wonderful. I spent time with my little sister and with GeekBoy. We watched West Side Story and ate wonderful food. On two separate occasions I managed to catch up with friends (one from school, another who emigrated to Australia) whom I hadn’t seen in over FIVE YEARS. I also met up with the lovely Lily from Lily Does Medschool.

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Sister, GeekBoy and I at Vovo Telo (awesome bakery!)

Continue reading “I Left My Voice In Cape Town”

Don’t Miss West Side Story at the Artscape!

I’m on leave in Cape Town and it is wonderful! As part of my effort to squish as much fun into a week as possible, my sister and I watched West Side Story at the Artscape Opera House.

It. Was. AMAZING.

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Image via The Fugard Theatre. Click for site.

What I knew of The Fugard Theatre Company going in: they stage the well-known Rocky Horror Show in Cape Town regularly and do it well. Their home theatre is fairly small, so the Artscape was necessary for a production of this size. Continue reading “Don’t Miss West Side Story at the Artscape!”

Throwback: Roadtrip Through History

I wrote this post as a note on Facebook exactly five years ago, 6 July 2010. I’m often ashamed when I read my past writings, but this isn’t one of those times. I’ve left it exactly as is. I’m not sure how much sense it will make to people who are not familiar with South Africa, but I decided to share it here in any case. I’ve hyperlinked some things for comprehension’s sake.

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The extravagant price-increases as brought on by the hosting of the FIFA World Cup recently necessitated a 12-hour road-trip to Cape Town, as opposed to the usual 90-minute flight.

A cold and dark 05:00 morning progressed just as we progressed through the land of memories.

Memories of debating trips – so many debating trips.

Here we debated.

Here we lost.

Here we won.

Here I learnt that the line between conviction and contradiction truly is a fine one. Continue reading “Throwback: Roadtrip Through History”