The Threat of Funemployment

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.

Applying for my first post-comserve job is a bit like the whole “what do I want to do when I grow up” crisis all over again. Because I want to work with children, but how many paediatrics posts are available? Not many. And paeds has seen an upsurge in popularity, so the available posts are highly sought-after.

So what other jobs would I like to do? Jobs that could teach me something before I go back to working with children. But if something happens and I end up stuck in that job for a long time, will I be okay with it?

Looking for a job is an exercise in self-reproach. Why didn’t I do more courses this year? Why didn’t I write that diploma? Why didn’t I participate in more research? Why didn’t I suck up a little more, make sure people knew my name? Look at what everyone else has achieved. Why haven’t I?

It’s an opportunity to be kind to myself. I’ve had a big year.

I started therapy and finally found the right combination of meds.

I ended a long-term relationship.

I stayed on my own for the first time. The past few years were just adulting-lite. This year I had to learn the real art of adulting.

I finally started making friends.

As I explored this new city, I also explored myself.

I found parts that I hate. I found parts that I love.

I stepped out of my comfort zone, and as usual, it was rewarding.

Finding a post-comserve job is probably the scariest part of my medical career so far. I know I must not compare myself to others, but I also know that an interview panel will do exactly that. (By the way, I screwed up my most important interview. I got total stage-fright.)

This is also a time of great promise. It reminds me of everything I can do with this degree. It reminds me that I can stretch my wings. It reminds me that I am not captive. I am free.

 * * *

Sorry if you came here looking for some inspiration. I had to type because my nails were already bitten to the quick. Find me a job, and maybe I’ll be able to get back to the usual stuff.

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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”

Does It Have To End?

c4e635ecb89b5ed4844f087dca6580b1My four-month stint on the paediatric service comes to an end this week.

I enjoyed paediatrics in medical school, but never as much as this. How wonderful it was to be excited about work, to enjoy it so much that I willingly and eagerly read up more about all my cases.

It may have been one of the most challenging rotations – and it was good to see myself growing in confidence and ability.

There is so much work to do in paediatric healthcare, especially because you inadvertently treat the caregivers as well. And women are another group so sorely neglected in our environment.  Continue reading “Does It Have To End?”

Baby-CPR: Full Circle

The first time I partook in a baby’s resuscitation was during my fourth year of medical school. It was a disaster: the wall-suction malfunctioned, the nursing staff were in the precarious business of changing shifts, and all algorithms flew out of the window.

I vowed optimistically that when I was a doctor, I would not let a baby die that way.

I had a lot of criticisms, which is so easy for a student to do; but I did learn from it. I learned to prepare myself mentally for any scenario where a life may need to be saved, so that I could give that life a fighting chance.

Last night it was my turn. I was called to the ward for a desaturating baby with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP). It was my call to start bag-mask ventilation, and then to start compressions when his heart rate dropped below 60.

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Chest X-ray of a child with PCP. European Respiratory Journal. Click for link.

Continue reading “Baby-CPR: Full Circle”

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 “What If Everything You Knew About Breastfeeding Was Wrong?”