Campus Life, Real Medicine

DOC-U-MENTALLY: The Film [Review]

Breaking this unintentional hiatus to tell you (read: shout from the rooftops) that I have watched Doc-u-mentally and

IT.

IS.

AMAZING!

I wrote about the crowdfunder for this documentary last year: a “labour of love” that would follow five young South African doctors during one 30 hour call.*

And they made it. And it was wonderful.

I had the pleasure of watching this film at a screening organised by JUDASA this past week, and I was glued to the screen (projector) from the opening shot. So was the rest of the audience.

The five young doctors that were filmed were really fun to watch. The diversity had the potentialto feel a little bit forced, but the producers made it clear from the beginning that it would be “five doctors, five cultures”. They were all great in front of the camera, their personalities entertaining, their emotions real.

I am no film-critic, but I thought the videography was fantastic. This was not an amateur film. Every shot is purposeful. I loved the focus on little things – especially the hands of the doctors.**

I enjoyed the balance of seriousness and humour – because, let’s face it, there is a lot of humour in medicine – even if a lot of it is dark humour.

As a junior doctor, this film gave me something to connect with. It made me feel seen. It made me feel connected to other doctors around the country. We know, rationally, that we are not alone, but sometimes it is hard to believe that we are not the only struggling doctor who sometimes questions their sanity.

It made me realise that even if our petitions sometimes fall on unwilling ears, we are not unheard.

I think that for medical students (current and prospective), this film will be a real look into their future. I think for some it may be a wake-up call. But I also think that for some, it will be an inspiration. Some will feel less alone. Some will realise that they are in the right field after all. And some will decide they are definitely in the wrong field, and that’s okay too.

I took two non-medical friends with me to the screening. They seemed to enjoy it too. They said it was intense. Maybe a little bit gory for those sensitive to blood – but nothing too horrible. Maybe a little bit sad. They both said afterwards that even though I had explained to them what being “on call” meant, they hadn’t really understood – but now, they did.

I want every medical student and doctor to see this. Also the older doctors.

I want the non-medical public to see this. Families of doctors. Families of patients. Politicians – or am I asking too much?

My only complaint is that this is not yet available for sale to the public. I want my own copy!

I hope you will watch it. Below I have linked the upcoming screenings I have been able to find:

Tygerberg Campus on 11 September 2017

Wits Medical School 13 September 2017

Wits Medical School 22 September 2017 (not sure if both Wits dates are confirmed)

*For the life of me, cannot find that post now. It shows up in my searches but I can’t seem to access it. Help?!

**Only after drafting this post did I read that Andre Meyer from Meyer Productions won the SAFTA for Best Cinematography for this film in March this year. 

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Getting to know me, Real Medicine

Why I Paed

il_fullxfull.1060268322_b3xh_1b44cb32-38e5-43f0-83cd-e66691807124_grandeWhenever I talk about my love for child health, and my intention to pursue it as a career, I get this kind of response:

“Oh, I could never work with kids. It just breaks my heart to see them suffer!”

I don’t get it.

I mean, maybe I’m a cold-hearted bitch, but I don’t think so.

I hold children down and stick them with needles, because I know it’s necessary to make them better. I scrub burn wounds and I encourage parents to wait outside because I know they’ll cry and/or likely try to assault me for hurting their babies.

I also use topical anaesthetic cream liberally and question IV lines when I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. I’m liberal with analgesia prescriptions because pain is more harmful than useful in a hospital setting.

I see malnourished and abused children, and sometimes I bite my tongue raw to keep my temper.

I’ve told mothers that their children had cancer, and I’ve told them that their kids would be developmentally delayed for the rest of their lives. I’ve told them that their kids will live, but that they will be long-term patients.

(Thankfully rarely) I’ve informed parents that their baby was no longer alive.

* * * 

But I give more high-fives than I give pain.

I get gummy smiles and snotty laughter and the wide-based gait of children waddling around my legs.

I call in the social workers and the dieticians and we (try to) address systems, not just lapses in judgment.

I get to pick up a crying infant and feel it relax, because although human contact isn’t medicine, sometimes it’s just what you need in that moment. Both of you.

I get to discharge more patients than I ever have to declare demised.

When I tell a parent that their child is disabled, I get to tell them about disabled people who don’t only live, but THRIVE.

I get to admit a shocked child, and see her running around the ward two days later.

I get to witness the purity of the human spirit first-hand.

I tread among the future.

Paediatrics is the great success-story of 20th century medicine, and I rarely cry for it.

* * * 

Adult medicine? Oh I couldn’t. I’d cry all day.

Campus Life, Real Medicine, Studying Medicine

Mental Health Begins With Medical Students

Every few months, the mental health of doctors/medical students makes it to popular media. It seems like these spikes in attention occur, and everyone shouts YOU SHOULD CARE FOR YOUR DOCTORS! and then we write blogs and we tweet and we make youtube videos and eventually we go back to work, and nothing has changed.

I think we are the missing link. And by “we”, I mean qualified doctors. And also, you, the older doctors. Continue reading “Mental Health Begins With Medical Students”

Real Medicine, Uncategorized

The Safe Working Hours Wristband Campaign is Missing the Point – Here’s Why

If you’ve been paying attention, working hours of doctors (especially junior doctors) have been getting some good airtime over the past few months. The Province of the Western Cape has committed to actively reducing maximum continuous working hours for doctors to twenty-four, the HPCSA has promised to “look into it” (not that we have too much confidence there), and our biggest representative, SAMA (South African Medical Association) has come out in our support.

One of the things to come from all this is the launching of an armband campaign. This has its origins, I believe, from a similar campaign in the UK – although I have not been able to find any source to this link.

608772084 Continue reading “The Safe Working Hours Wristband Campaign is Missing the Point – Here’s Why”

Real Medicine

Abortion Care: Did I Provide My Best?

It’s funny how sometimes, long after the fact, you start questioning your levels of care and competence.

During my first rotation of internship (last year), which was Obstetrics and Gynaecology, I was one of the few interns willing to do pregnancy terminations. (For the purposes of this blog, the matter is not up for debate – I have been pro-choice for nearly half my life, and have thoroughly evaluated my own beliefs.)

Just recently I’ve found myself thinking back on those four months and wondering if I did everything I could, and if I was empathic enough. Continue reading “Abortion Care: Did I Provide My Best?”

Current Affairs, Real Medicine

Too Little, Too Late?

You might remember that we lost an intern colleague in South Africa a while ago, when she was in a fatal car accident after a long overnight shift. It was a big accident involving other vehicles, with at least two other people requiring ICU care.

One of them recently succumbed to her injuries, and the victim’s family members have made it known that they intend to sue* the Department of Health.

Most of my colleagues seem very happy with this. The government must be held responsible for the consequences of working their young doctors to exhaustion.

But part of me feels so very embittered. For years now we have asked nicely, and loudly, that our hours be addressed. Continue reading “Too Little, Too Late?”