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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.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

A German Fall
Hello, lovely blog land!  Apologies for my absence.  It's been a little bit busy since last I scribbled - 'quelle surprise' I hear you cry!  I must admit, I've missed writing here - it's sort of a barometer of how crazy my life is if I have no time to write.  Dang! I thought I was getting better at work life balance!

Well, a few kilograms and brain cells lighter, perhaps November is actually a good time to take stock before the year's end and contemplate the last 12 months.  I don't (deliberately!) write a lot about my private life on this blog, but an important meeting today reminded me that it's actually OK for your Life to be a decision directioner.  Strangely, having the foundation of a truly content home life does throw a lot more balls in the air than I was expecting!  It's a source of hilarity to many of my friends that, as they enquire as to how many PhDs I've written/types of cancer I've cured/papers I've published since last we met, that my biggest achievement of 2016 has been to move in with a boy. Imagine!
When in doubt, find mountains

Professionally, my life has been peppered with the consequences of an NHS that has never been closer to the edge.  When I meet up with my university friends, it's clear we've come a very long way since we rocked up at medical school 10 years ago.  The 'tears at work' phase was probably one we thought we had traversed, but as people become more stretched, covering more patients with the same single pair of hands, my friends have seemingly endless tales of distress and despair.  Now we have all started specialty training, there is something even more daunting at looking down the barrel of five, six, seven or even eight more years of this onslaught and that's just to finish our training. I know that it's not much better for Consultants, despite what certain newspapers choose to write. 
An Oxfordshire Fall....

Frankly, I'm just a bit scared that I haven't got the stamina for it.  I've been enjoying working in a research lab, although recent exams mean I've been once more stretched to what me and those close to me can tolerate.  If I have failed these exams (as I'm expecting to have done), I am resolute in my plan to ride out this research year with no further exam distractions and find who my happy professional self is again. 

For me at least, having a joyful nest to come home to at the end of the day puts a real microscope on how precious your time is, both professionally and personally.  It also makes you think about the future and developing a happy, sustainable work situation.  My meeting today was with someone who successfully managed to combine messages of understanding at how difficult things are in the NHS, encouragement to get my shizzle together and motivation that I do have choices. 

...and a Yorkshire Winter...
I love being a doctor in the NHS, and I believe in the NHS, but it's hard to see something that you love being squashed.  All of the patients I saw on a recent evening in the Medical Assessment Unit were seen in temporary bays and were waiting in a room where others sat with drips running.  When I left my shift at around 10pm, there were about 5 ambulance crews already waiting to hand over to A and E, their patients waiting in trolleys in the doorway.  Amidst all of this madness, there's an army of junior doctors who are expected to 'train' around an NHS that is bursting at the seams.  Consultants are too stretched to address the training desert.  Going above and beyond is the standard required just to get through the working day, so there's none left to help with things like training and exams.
... with friends!

I don't want to complain without solutions, and am very excited to play (an extremely amateur) role in promoting www.juniorreviews.com, which is trying to motivate trainees from the bottom up to champion great training - because without great training, the NHS can have no future. 

My other solution for now is to love my laboratory research, heal myself a little and shore up the defences.  My meeting today, if anything, reminded me that the System still cares.  The System, in my case, is hugely embellished by my research interests.  I have no idea how my purely clinical colleagues are staying sane.  It's a shame but I fear the System is not going to be quite so robust in hospital land, so I'd best be ready for it when it finds me again. And, as I was reminded, having stepped out of the System for a while to do research in the USA, my mind is open to the world of possibilities out there, which makes me very lucky.  As a timely reminder of that, I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend with some of the great folks I met out there.

Best quote from my meeting today: 'Life doesn't get more complicated, only richer'.