5 years worth of hoops jumped through correctly, each at the precise height, angle and speed required by the medical school. Final OSCEs and written examinations completed. Now it was just a question of waiting for results for the final time and despite going through this every year for the past 4 years the waiting period did not got any easier. What made it worse was that before knowing our results we had to book graduation gowns and ceremony tickets whilst international students had to book flights for family members overseas. Many of us had to give notice to landlords 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 we weren’t doctors yet and I certainly didn’t want to use that title until I’d definitely passed. I’m not normally superstitious and definitely don’t have a pair of lucky red exam underpants but whilst waiting for results, I didn’t want to tempt fate.
I know a consultant surgeon who wears a particular lucky surgical cap for every procedure. The one time he forgot, he proceeded using a disposable one but 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 cap affect surgical outcomes? Superstition seems to thread its skinny fingers into any tiny cracks and prises them open.
Results day eventually came around and we found out the usual way by logging on and typing in our candidate number. I was refreshing the page 100 times in the minute leading up to them being published. As soon as I saw the notification my hands wouldn’t move at the speed my brain wanted them to and it took forever to physically click on the link. In the time it took to wait for the page to open I felt as though I could have made a cup of tea – and drank it.
‘Control Copy, Control Paste’ candidate number. Double, triple and quadruple check. Each time it still said: “Written Examinations: Pass, OSCEs: Pass”
* * *
Last week I became 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 quite large shoes. 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). Supposedly we will get quicker at our jobs but we survived week 1 and the nurses were amazing! Thank you nurses.
Right now I still find it hard to believe I’m doing this. It wasn’t until recently 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. It has been a privilege that I wouldn’t have had any other way. As an F1 doctor my job is quite routine, ward rounds, prescribing fluids, analgesia, anti-emetics, routine meds and the dreaded admin paperwork required to discharge patients. All straightforward stuff but there is so much of it with so many interruptions and nurses chasing you on tasks. However there have been times when I’ve been asked to see a patient and I’ve been able to make a difference and then the feeling of accomplishment is really satisfying and I know the responsibility will rapidly increase. There are not many jobs where you can find out so much about people, fix or them feel better or relieve their pain on a daily basis.
In terms of financial reward, if money is important to you there are far easier ways to gain financially and you might never recoup lost earnings if you’re quitting an existing 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 heartless rota co-ordinator.
someone not only moved the goalposts but at the same time smeared a little bit of Type 6 all over them too
Finally, 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 and there are still huge uncertainties with junior doctor contracts. I’m ecstatic to have qualified but the ongoing politics have tarnished that feeling of achievement a little. It feels as though whilst we had our heads down working so hard for this, someone not only moved the goalposts but at the same time smeared a little bit of Type 6 over them too. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.
In retrospect 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 have done it. I think most medical students and applicants have a special kind of stubborn blind (or crystal clear?) determination in terms of achieving objectives. I’ve never met a single group 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.