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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, 6 May 2016

On Kindness

River deep and mountain high!
Work recently has been tough.  Working as a junior doctor on an acute cancer ward is never likely to be stress-free, but add in a couple of folks down on the on-call rota, a rota that already involves working 1 in 4 weekends and ever-escalating strike action - well, it makes things rather epic.  A lot of our patients are young and all of them are pretty sick.  There are often days when we feel like some of our patients have just had a pretty crap deal with life, and we can't really do much to take that away other than to do our work as best we can and be as supportive as possible.  Recently I was called to see a young patient who was a similar age to me who was dying of cancer - I think there would be something wrong with me if that didn't affect me.  I finally cracked after a long weekend where a lot of patients had become very unwell and passed away, and tried to support some very distressed patients and relatives.  It's just as well I don't wear much make-up, eh?  

A lot is made of the stress of the actual job of being a doctor, although I'd probably describe the above as emotionally consuming rather than stressful (and sometimes it's good to 'feel' - reassures me at least that I'm still human!).  In some ways, of far greater stress to me is my looming end-of-year appraisal, trying to get all my competences/outcomes done for my portfolio (e.g. assessments from other doctors, attending enough clinics, doing enough procedures), doing an audit/quality improvement project, somehow getting to weekly teaching, doing a massive exam, doing edits on a paper, organising my research project for August...  Without that lot, being a junior doctor would be a very different thing!

From the last of Winter's snow...
Morale is certainly at an all-time low amongst junior doctors with the current contract situation but what's awesome is a) how much I fundamentally enjoy my job, b) I'm starting to think I'm ok at it and c) how much being a doctor means to be part of a team that looks out for each other.  This big ol' exam? I've only got a bunch of 7 other junior doctors who are teaming up to help each other pass the damn thing.  Getting my stuff done for my appraisal? It turns out people are very willing to help you if you just ask.  And as for the emotional challenges at work - well, we look out for, and are kind to, each other.  Kindness - to yourself and to others - under-rated, if you ask me.  Life is just too short to tolerate its absence and live negatively!

In addition, life outside of work (for me at least) has been very kind to me indeed, blossoming and blooming apace with the Spring that is also finally making an appearance.  Even though I am both time and money poor (try spending nearly £2000 on your last (hopefully) big postgrad exam... gulp), I feel rich in laughs, love and adventures right now - what a lucky bean! A potent reminder of the importance of work/life balance which my old housemate generously said I 'seemed to be getting better at these days' - praise indeed!  My job may be tough but life is pretty wonderful right now :)

And so - to night shifts once more this weekend.  Hope you're able to spend yours in the same wonderful sunshine that is to be found in my corner of the world right now - I'll look forward to sleeping through it!
... to the fresh blossom of Spring!

Naomi Shihab Nye (1952) - 'Kindness'
'...Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, 
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
 You must wake up with sorrow. 
You must speak to it till your voice 
catches the thread of all sorrows 
and you see the size of the cloth. 
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, 
only kindness that ties your shoes 
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, 
only kindness that raises its head 
from the crowd of the world to say 
It is I you have been looking for, 
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.'