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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.  

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