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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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.

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

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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”

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”

The Nicest Interns: Part 2

I just recently finished a four-month Family Medicine rotation. Our after-hours duties on Family  Medicine are as casualty officers at the Accident and Emergency Departments of two different hospitals. Because A&E has high-intensity decision making, our shifts were not allowed to be longer than twelve hours (compare: 24 hour shifts in any other department).

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Continue reading “The Nicest Interns: Part 2”

The Nicest Interns: Part 1

It’s so easy to complain about my daily work. Annoying patients, a system that is falling apart a little more every day, and inconsiderate or lazy doctors and nurses  <– you see?

And then there are some of my colleagues who just really make me want to be a better person – and a better doctor.

One of our intern-colleagues is well-loved for being a bundle of fun and kindness. Whatever event our hospital’s social committee organises: he’s there, and he is their biggest promoter. He introduces people to each other, and he encourages them to get out of their shell.

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Then there was that one time he walked around casualty on Easter Weekend dressed as the Easter Bunny, handing out goodies to all the interns on-call.

How nice is that?!?!?!

When he has a calm call-duty, he walks around and helps the services that are having a rougher time of it.

Written down, it may seem like he is the biggest gunner or kiss-ass. But he is just so genuine that it does not seem to get on anybody’s nerves (not even my very flammable ones).

I’m by far not a lazy or a mean intern, but when I see people like this guy, I just think: wow. I want to be like that when I grow up.

Another Song for Medical Student, Interns, and Basically Everyone

I heard this song for the first time as I was driving to my New Year’s Day call on Friday. Apparently I’m the only person in the whole world who hasn’t heard it, but WHATEVER okay.

I wept a little.

THIS is what I want to say to people. To the new interns who are hopefully going to realise this year that medicine was the right career for them; but who will certainly meet many challenges this year.

Medicine is hard and you’ll be expected to be super-human, never to have broken wings, never to feel like you can’t go on.

Remember that for every person who expects you to motor on without a wink of sleep,  without any debriefing after a difficult resuscitation, there is another who will lend you their wings when it’s hard.

Look for them. Look for us.

Find the people who will support you when your day or week or month is shitty.

And when your wings are working… please help someone who needs them.

A Song for Medical Students, Interns, and Basically Everyone

By now this is an old song, but I remember last year I thought: this is the song I want to dedicate to my class.

I don’t know if I’ve always followed its advice. Have I grabbed every opportunity to LIVE? Perhaps not. But I’ll keep working on that.

I keep saying this about medicine: it is when we learn and experience that we come to grow through this profession.

If you’re about to start medical school: grab every opportunity.

If you’re about to finish medical school: grab every opportunity.

If you’re somewhere in-between: grab every opportunity.

No matter where in your journey you are: make it one helluva ride.

Two beautiful stories from OBGYN

OBGYN is considered one of our “big” internship rotations. The hours are long, the calls are busy, the responsibility is huge.

I love when a baby is born. For the sake of honesty I’ll tell you that it’s not always a happy occasion. There are many, many babies born into seriously less-than-ideal situations. But in that moment that a baby gives his first cry, I swear the world trembles.

Womb | Beautiful Us | Aitch | Click for more.

Continue reading “Two beautiful stories from OBGYN”