5 years worth of hoops had been jumped through correctly, each at the precise height, angle and velocity. Our final OSCEs and written examinations had been completed. Now it was just a question of waiting for results for the final time and despite going through this every year for 5 years the waiting period did not got any easier. What made it worse was that before results day, we already had to book graduation gowns and ceremony tickets whilst students with families overseas had to book flights. Holders of job offers from hospitals in other cities had to give notice on their homes and start looking for new places to live. Talk about counting chickens before any eggs had hatched.
The deaneries (training hospitals we were allocated to for our first jobs) were already tempting fate by beginning correspondence with: “Dear Doctor…” Only I wasn’t a doctor yet and I certainly didn’t want to use that title until I’d definitely passed. What if the universe punished me for calling myself a doctor before I had qualified?
Sidenote: I know a consultant surgeon who wears a particular surgical cap for every procedure. The one time he forgot, he convinced himself that he was being silly and proceeded anyway using a disposable one. The procedure didn’t go well. Since then, he makes sure he is always wearing this one surgical cap. Doctors and surgeons are evidence based. How can a particular cap affect surgical outcomes? Perhaps for some, if there are tiny cracks, superstition will thread its skinny fingers in and prise them open. I’m not normally superstitious and don’t have a pair of lucky red exam underpants but whilst waiting for results those cracks appeared and I didn’t want to tempt fate.
Results day eventually came around and we found out the usual way by logging on and typing in our candidate number. I was probably refreshing the page 100 times a minute whilst waiting for them to be published. Once they were released I double, triple and quadruple checked and each time it still said:
Written Examinations: Pass, OSCEs: Pass.
Last week I started working as a Foundation Year 1 (F1) doctor! We had a few days of induction and shadowing the outgoing F1 doctors. They then moved to their F2 jobs and we were left to step into their shoes and run everything. The sense of responsibility and the lists of jobs generated by ward rounds were overwhelming, especially when seniors weren’t around (plus there is that dreaded bleep) but we survived week 1 and the nurses were amazing! Thank you nurses.
* * *
I’m still find it hard to believe I’m doing this and am still not used to it. It wasn’t until after a few days of working when it sank in that actually I had become a doctor – and I nearly had a wobbly emotional moment.
Has it been worth it? In terms of life-experience yes definitely. It has been a privilege that I never would have had any other way. There are not many other jobs where you can find out so much about people, sometimes at their most vulnerable, fix them or make them feel better or relieve their pain on a daily basis.
In terms of financial reward no, there are far easier ways to gain financially and you might never recoup lost earnings if you’re quitting a job. Having little control over your quality of life outside of work, missing weddings and important family or friends’ events and not being able to see your own family in sociable hours are the sacrifices to come. It will take me at least ten more years to become a consultant where life is a little less at the mercy of a work rota co-ordinator.
someone not only moved the goalposts but at the same time smeared a little bit of shit all over them too
In addition, practically all clinical staff are concerned about the future of the NHS which is undergoing a period of transition. It feels like things are in a bit of a mess to be honest and there are still huge uncertainties with junior doctor contracts. I’m ecstatic to have qualified but the ongoing political uncertainties have tarnished that feeling of achievement. It feels as though whilst we were working so hard for this, someone not only moved the goalposts but at the same time smeared a little bit of shit all over them too.
Would I do it again? If I had known it would have been so challenging with so much disruption to life I’d think twice, but I’d still do it. I think that the people at medical school or those trying to get a place, have a special kind of stubborn blind (or crystal clear?) determination in terms of achieving objectives. I’ve never met a group of people with such a high level of motivation. If I could go back in time to warn my old “medical school applicant” self about the road ahead, I don’t think I would listen to the future self.