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 get easier.
The deaneries (hospitals we were allocated to for our first jobs) were already tempting fate by beginning correspondence with: “Dear Doctor…” Talk about counting chickens before any eggs had hatched. 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 pants but whilst waiting for results, I didn’t want to tempt fate.
I know a consultant surgeon who wears a particular surgical cap for every procedure. The one time he forgot, he used a disposable one but the procedure didn’t go well. Now he ensures he is always wearing this one surgical cap. Doctors are evidence based. How can a cap affect surgical outcomes? Superstition seems to thread its skinny fingers into any tiny cracks and pries them open.
Results day eventually came and we found out the usual way by logging on with our candidate numbers. Upon seeing the notification, my hands wouldn’t move at the same speed as my brain 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” !!!
MSL, you shall become a doctor!
* * *
Last week I became a Foundation Year 1 (F1) doctor! We had a few days of induction and shadowing the outgoing F1 doctors. They moved to their F2 jobs and we stepped into their quite large and well-worn shoes. The responsibility was overwhelming and the list of jobs generated by ward rounds seemed to keep growing (plus there is that dreaded bleep). Supposedly we will get quicker 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? I still don’t know but so far it has been a privilege. As an F1 my job is mostly quite routine, lots of paperwork, organising and ensuring all patients are seen on ward rounds (you’d be surprised how easy a patient could be missed, especially outliers – those patients on other wards but who are still your responsibility), prescribing: fluids; analgesia; anti-emetics; routine meds and completing the dreaded admin paperwork required to discharge patients. All straightforward but there is so much of it with so many interruptions from nurses chasing you on tasks.
However, there have been times when I’ve been asked to see unwell patients or those in such pain and I’ve been able to make a difference. One day, I was stopped in the corridor, “Excuse me!” Expecting to be asked directions, I looked up but recognised her as the wife of a patient I had seen over the weekend shift. She said: “I don’t know your name but I wanted to say thank you for explaining everything and being there for my husband. I’ve told all the staff on the ward about you too…” It was such a sincere encounter that gave me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment and its moments like these that help to make it all worth it.
In terms of financial reward, if money is important to you there are easier ways to earn a similar salary and if you’re quitting an existing job you might never recoup earnings lost whilst studying. Needless to say, don’t do it for money.
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 sacrifices to come.
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 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. It feels as though whilst we had our heads down working hard, 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 knew it would have been so challenging with so much life disruption I’d think twice, but ultimately 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 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.