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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Scientific frustrations (and putting it into perspective)

First of all - big love to you, reader, who is taking the time to read my blog.  Over 6000 reads - I never expected that!

It is quarter past 7 on a Friday and I am just leaving work.  I'm still in the lab for another month, and have so much to do.

Almost every day something happens where I feel I have regressed to the amateur scientist I know I really am, and I crave my clinical life a little - a life I think I know and am comfortable with.  In the lab, I am the human being equivalent of a toddler.  Occasionally, I manage to walk, even picking up some speed from time to time.  Then my feet forget where they are and I fall on my bum again. Often it's my own pride and frustration at not wanting to ask twenty thousand ever-more-ridiculous questions that gets me there. And of course it's never major stuff.  But it's enough to land me a deep sigh, a very long day and sometimes a return to square one.  They say 'that's science' but dang, it's tough to bear.  Kids, research is not glamorous.  It makes what you (think you) know that bit more appealing - in this case, being a clinical doctor.
But a friend reminded me of the world I will be re-entering in a month's time, and how I need to ditch the rose tinted glasses about clinical medicine.  Today the biggest mistake I made was nearly putting the wrong reagent into a 96-well plate.  In contrast, I got a message from a friend saying they really needed to vent about something that happened on their night shifts this week.  Now, I have no idea what has happened, but it reminded me of what is at stake when I am on clinical duty, and the number of times I have left a medical shift with a sort of manic panic in my belly.  I am a very junior doctor, and I often have uncertainties, as all doctors do, about the best course of action.  It is easy to forget about this side of clinical practice when you've been away from it for a couple of months.  

Sometimes I think back to when I was at school, when some people in my GCSE classes would throw all their toys out of the pram when they couldn't do something.  And here I am, aged 25 with both a medical degree and science degree in my hand, still floundering and getting stuck!  But that's kind of why I love it - it stops you getting complacent, and also keeps that feeling and familiarity of 'not knowing' fresh in your mind when you encounter others on their way up the ladder.  I think it's crucial for a doctor to be comfortable with knowing what they don't know, and be willing to ask for help.  Pride is probably a doctor's greatest downfall.  

So I am off home to be a listening ear to my friend, and learn to accept that it's OK to be OK at something while you've got the learner plates on.  And on a positive note, I managed to sort out my dearth of cells pre-spheroid creation, and work out why the PCR machine wasn't working.  So perhaps I am able to work some things out for myself after all.  

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

It's nice to be important (but it's far more important to be nice)

The fire is crackling, I'm tucked under a woollen blanket and all is well!

Because I had my interview. And I did my presentation.  But the thing that has made this week AWESOME is how people who are quite important are also incredibly nice.

I once had the misfortune of working with some peers who were wholly and solely driven by getting ahead, and today was further evidence of why this is so misguided.  One of the professors who I have long held in very high esteem came to the presentation I did today. Apart from being incredibly nice about my mid-presentation epic technology fail, and asking detailed but not scary questions about my talk, he then stayed behind afterwards to discuss my interview and various other things.  This is someone I didn't know at all before I moved here 18 months ago, and is directly responsible for how I came to work in the incredible lab team I work in now.  And I am a nobody.  He is definitely a somebody.  What a complete legend.

I hope I can become someone as awesome as that when I grow up, and just be as good a person as I can be in the mean time.

(The interview, incidentally, was fine. I have no idea whether it was good, or bad, or what.  I had a great time though, and it was a great experience - nothing lost! Further evidence that you should just go for things.)

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Taking chances

Perhaps it's a bit childish but the (very little) jewellery I wear is my reminder that taking chances is what life is all about. I only wear three things without interruption - my ear cuff (to remind me that I AM adventurous, even when I worry about secretly being quite boring - I had the piercing done after a particularly horrific set of uni exams), my silver thumb ring (to remind me of my adventures - the ring itself was about £4 which I haggled for in Kuala Lumpur) and my celtic silver middle finger ring (to remind me of why we must have adventures - I bought it in Edinburgh after finishing the Team Triathlon we did for my friends who died in the avalanche). My new glasses are a separate story photographed below - geek at heart, and ready to embrace it. 

I have an interview tomorrow, you see! Maybe that seems like quite an underwhelming 'chance' but given that it's for my year out across the pond, the stakes are reasonably high. Last week I was off skiing, throwing myself down snowy slopes in the Alps and taking only a few (if painful) tumbles.  Perhaps that was more of a chance taken - every time I heard an avalanche cannon go off, it was a painful reminder. I am not ashamed to say a couple of tears were shed. But it was wonderful to be in the clean air, with (interchangeably) the sun or snow on my back.  Since the start of 2014, I have seen friends await the arrival of a baby, two wonderful people get married, nearly got blown off the top of a mountain (billed as a hill - the weather made it seem otherwise), swam in an ice-cold lake and tinkered with various chemicals in a lab.  In the next few weeks there are other chances, adventures and escapades.  You can make a lot of things into chances for something awesome. 

So maybe I shouldn't worry so much about the interview. In my last interview some 2 years ago, I rocked up in a smart but nonetheless blue-with-wooden-beads dress that rattled when I walked. I'm pretty sure I was the only one there without a black suit on, girls included. I chatted with a friend until the interview started and made friends to share the taxi back to the station with. And hey, I got the job. So here's to embracing the unknown (with my trusty trio of cheap jewellery, of course!).