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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.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Justified - the Case for the Doctoring Gap Year

Clinton, CT.
Well blimey, here we are. My last week in the lab! Time to pack up my pipettes and hand them on to someone else, and leave Gary in the hands of my successor to find out all of his secrets. In many ways it has felt like all of the pain of starting a PhD without actually having done one - but perhaps a good omen for if/when the time comes that I've still come out smiling! But finally it is starting to feel like it's time to return to the green pastures of England, and back to my beloved stethoscope. Saying goodbye over and over again is exhausting, as is squeezing every last second with final defining moments rather than planning new ones - which most recently include sun basking in Boston's beautiful public gardens, dabbling my toes in the sea off the Connecticut coast and finally trying my first lobster roll. I am assured this is a feeling common to all temporary emigres - but that doesn't mean I won't be PHENOMENALLY sad to leave.

Boston Public Gardens, MA.
I guess it should be the time to become profound, but to be honest, it's been such an overwhelming couple of weeks, on top of, well, a VERY overwhelming year, and I think it will take me many months on my return to even begin to process it all.  So I won't try here and now!

I know that sounds overdramatic, but what the hell - I left my job, my friends, my family, and potentially my career, with many, many months of uncertainty and put all my eggs in the American basket on my own.  But hey, I did it - and it's been a blast.  I left my little island in exchange for this massive one, and created a life from scratch whilst learning to do a new job.  It was most certainly not always easy - perhaps the easiest way to describe it is that despite leaving home nearly a decade ago, having embraced backpacking at every turn and working as a doctor for two years, this is the first time I feel anything vaguely resembling An Adult (emphasis on the 'vaguely').  Living abroad means having no back-up plan when it turns out you're going to be homeless, when your bank card gets defrauded and you suddenly have no money because everything has been blocked, and dealing with every single personal and professional disaster on your own.  I have FAR from done it all correctly and perfectly but in many ways I feel ruined for life, because I think unless you've lived abroad, it's a complex bunch of emotions that are hard to explain (and I worry that makes me sound a bit of a travel snob).  Why should a junior doctor take a gap year, especially one that doesn't involve doing any clinical work?  Living abroad makes you resourceful and self sufficient, because you have to be, and extremely humble to your own fallibility.  And I made Gary, and who knows, maybe one day I'll prescribe a drug that Gary helped to identify! I think those are enough good reasons to do it (re. fallibility as per the famous report) although there are many more yet to reach the 'conscious' layers of my brain!  Of course I was never really 'alone' - I am ever grateful to some key people who have been Extremely Important along the way.
Solitude - the lot of the emigre!

Three cubed on the
High Line, NYC
Jeremy Hunt probably SHOULD be alarmed, because all the baby docs such as myself that have taken time out have certainly come to appreciate that life as a junior doctor does not have to be the exhausting treadmill we thought it might be, and that a bit of pick'n'mix career-wise makes us better, saner doctors.  Amongst my friends alone, we have covered every continent (except from Antarctica) during our medical gap years - from relatively well trodden routes to Australia and New Zealand, to being an Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone, a paediatric PhD student in India or an expedition medic in Mexico.  It has been my very great privilege to share multi-time-zone Skype chats with friends I have known nearly a decade now from medical school who have taken their stethoscopes and explored the world.  Of course, I am equally chuffed for friends who have taken the alternative adventure route of setting down roots and starting families, one of whom I will be lucky to be going to a music festival with (27 weeks pregnant!) in a few weeks' time.  Adventures come in many forms, as my jewellery collection reminds me every day, but I know I have been incredibly lucky for this to have been mine.

From Toon to Tamil Nadu and now to NYC!
Dr P and Dr P. 
Amidst all of that, this ancient creature turned three cubed with some truly excellent and special people from all parts of her British and American life - feel a bit gushingly lucky. I'm not really one for material presents, but was lucky to be gifted some lovely scribbles in notes/cards, a mountain of books and a pair of awesome-ly crazy trousers. And if that sums me up in a nutshell, I'll take that.

And with that, I'm off to spend my final days with my best guy, Gary the Clone, whilst continuing the stream of goodbyes and pack my bags for my final American adventures, this time on my own.  Normally the most sociable bee you can imagine, I actually can't wait for some quality time on my tod.  Mountain of books - check.  Paints (<100ml for the flights!) - check. Journal - check.  Crazy trousers - check. Blog pals, I'll be back: “The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”  Dreadful?  Not dreadful.  But they do take time!  

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