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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, 21 July 2017

The sneaky approach of Black Wednesday...

Another year in the lab is about to come to an end, and what a whirlwind of a year it's been.  For a clinician scientist-in-training like me, it can often feel like you're treading water rather than actually swimming forwards.  But for the first time, as my last phase of general medical training (Core Medical Training) approaches, I feel I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Bungles here, Bungles there, Bungles everywhere!

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and wonder how on earth you ended up, well, HERE? Wherever 'here' is for you.  In my case, I'm 29 years old - TWENTY NINE!!  And I'm a doctor, and still quite a junior one, but not a very junior one.  And I'm also a scientist, and still quite a junior one, but I guess also not a very junior one.  Hmm!  And hopefully I'm also a lot of other things - being, as I hope, not entirely defined by my professional roles.  For one thing, I think I've nailed 'the doctor game' with my 3 and half-year-old niece (her idea, not mine!), and my colouring in skills are second to none.  The point is - I've progressed!

 A friend of mine quite wisely pointed out recently that while it can often feel that we are being pulled and pushed along a path we have not designed, ultimately we have made choices that lead us to where we are now.  It's just easy to forget them.  So when I read statistics such as an increase in unfilled junior doctor positions of 31% in one year, I know that's also no accident.  For the training programme I'm soon finishing, they have seen an increase in unfilled posts of nearly 10% in ONE YEAR.  Go one step further back in the career ladder, and only half of doctors completing the foundation programme (sort of like internship programmes) applied to higher training as GPs or specialists.
Dreaming spires, even when the summer sun is hiding
I'm part of a new generation of doctors, unfamiliar to the last, that is taking the scenic route through postgraduate medical training.  I too took a 'gap year' between foundation and specialty training - as did most of my friends at medical school.  Taking time out is not 'wasted time' - we return to training with new skills, new knowledge and new energy.  For me, research offers the opportunity to exercise a different part of my brain and I don't think it makes me a worse medical doctor (as discussed elsewhere in this blog).  For those who take time out to do short term clinical jobs in specialist areas, what they bring back to the table is hugely valuable.  In fact, I recently spoke to a friend who is now finding it difficult to be competitive in applying for a position outside her training programme because they have gone straight through without any time out.  I strongly feel that if the System closes its doors to these creative routes through medicine, those statistics of unfilled training jobs will only become more worrying.  

I am also part of a generation of doctors who has lived through this contract and NHS reorganisation fiasco.  And of course it's made me think about my priorities - because the system in which I work does not have time to worry about them on my behalf.  For me, having time to cycle, go for a run or play music are things that make a busy working life sustainable.  In the rotation I'm about to start, I got my rota a few weeks in advance, had a degree of choice over which rota I started on and I've already had some very precious annual leave approved.  They sound like little things, but they make me feel like a person with a life.  It's these little things that can make all the difference.  
Hopping from one job to the next...

So as Black Wednesday finds me, I'll be nervous to return full time to the clinical world and leave my cells for someone else to worry about.  My tips for new docs?  Gosh, I can't believe it's five years since it was my first day on the wards.  The top tips I'll be referring to myself are:
1) Ask a zillion questions over the first few days.
2) Learn how to do the basics! Prescribe things, request things - the actual LOGISTICS of doing these things are often the hardest!
3) Learn everyone's name - nurses, cleaners, HCAs, doctors - they are all friends you will need along the way.  

Wherever 'here' is for you this Black Wednesday, good luck - and remember everyone's had a 'first day' :) so be nice whichever side of it you're on!