My first year as a Doctor – Part 1

As of this Sunday I will have officially finished my Intern year which also marks the end of my first year as a Doctor. To put it bluntly… it’s been a freaking crazy year! I really don’t know where to start or end. It’s really been a roller coaster of a year, stretching my emotions,  beliefs, confidence, doubts, skills and imagination.

I’ve laughed with my fellow Interns; been stressed out to the brink of being burnt out; cried over patients; stayed back an extra 4 hours every night to do paper work without pay!; arrived to work an hour early to check on my patients; fight back the urge to yell at other health staff who think that they can take advantage of you because you’re an intern; consoled mourning families; celebrated with patients; slept at the hospital and the list goes on …

I don’t really know how to construct this post or posts, so I’m just going to type whatever goes to mind about my Internship experience: the good, the bad, the terrifying and the memorable.

1. The constant fight with “not being good enough”

When you ask any Intern on their first day what they fear most it’s usually along the lines of: “I’m scared of killing a patient,” and “I’m scared of not knowing enough.” To be honest this is the least of your worries, as an intern you are expected to not know everything anyway; you’re expected to ask and get confirmation. If in doubt, always ask! Really there’s no such thing as a stupid question if a patient’s health is on the line.

The true battle this year was within myself. The constant feeling of not being good enough and the feeling of not being a “good doctor” was and is a constant presence in my psyche.  But I soon realised I wasn’t alone. I was surprised how Interns, Residents and Registrars I admired and thought were “Amazing Superhuman Doctors” also felt like this on a daily basis. Maybe it’s part of the personality that Medicine attracts — that strive for perfection. It’s a destructive feeling which can burn you out- believe me! I still struggle with it… but I guess the important thing is 1. You’re not alone. 2. Ask questions. 3. There’s no such thing as “perfect.” 4. As long as you care for your patients and try to do your best- you’re not a “bad” doctor!

2. Mr A

Mr A will be a patient I’ll always remember. Someone who really touched the heart of my team. He was a lovely man in his nineties who came in with sepsis (infection in the blood). We gave him the strongest antibiotics we had, however everyday his blood results kept telling us that the bug was still there. I visited him many times a day- checking on his heart, his lungs, how he was feeling…

He had a gentle demeanor  and he became one of my favourite patients. I guess looking back it was an obvious end but I guess I was secretly hoping for the opposite. When he said “I think I’m a little better today” or when his blood tests improved by a few digits (even though I know there’s a margin for error), I honestly felt he was getting better too but there was a sense of doubt and I used to dread it when he asked me “Doc, am I getting better?” I made many phone calls to the other specialist registrars daily seeking their help and all of them would see him within the day often with their consultant too. The final solution reached by all units had high risk but we never got to take it.

On my last weekend shift for that rotation I was paged to see him because his oxygen saturations were dropping and he was struggling to breath. I did everything I could and called the Medical Registrar for help. After 15 days, his kidneys couldn’t take it anymore and his other organs were giving way too. We moved him to a special ward which can provide him oxygen through a special machine and I called his family, “You should come in… I don’t know how long… you should come in…”

I’m glad I made those phone calls, because his family got to at least see him alert and talking that night. I remember the last words he said to me before I left that night , “Doc, am I going to make it?” as he struggled to breath. I remember trying to fight back tears as his family watched me… “You’re going to be okay… we’re going to look after you…” I choked as I held his hand.

He passed away the following morning. My fellow interns told me that my Registrar held his hand as he slipped away. Me and the other 2 interns walked in to see him and said our good-byes. We were all crying.

I think it was many things. He was a wonderful patient, person, man. I spent a lot of my time with him. I spent a lot of my energy trying everything to make him better and so did my colleagues. At least he didn’t have to suffer anymore and that didn’t go in pain, and that his family got to see him. Sometimes being a doctor is not about cure, but about caring and comfort… and this is one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt as an Intern.

Part 2 coming soon…

  1. Anna said:

    First of all I have to say I love reading your blog. I follow a lot of fashion- and food blogs that can be sort of up.. shallow..? Whenever I read your posts, I feel like I’m down on earth again, and I love it. It seems as if all your words are selected with care, and your posts always make me feel better if I’m in a bad mood or anything. I always look forward to read one of your posts, even if I don’t comment all the time. You’re a real positive person and such an inspiration! Just wanted to say that :D

    I struggle with the same thoughts every day, especially since this new year began, as this is my last six month working on my master thesis. I’ve never been good at writing, and since this semester I have to write it down on paper, I get really anxious and afraid.. I notice how drained I feel at the end of the day when having those negative thoughts about how all the other students are doing so much better than me and so on.. I just have to remember that it’s not about being or doing perfect. It’s not as if the world goes down if I don’t do perfect. I just gotta give my 100% and be satisfied.

    I’m sorry about the man. It’s gotta be hard to be a doctor.. That’s why I could never be one, even though I’ve always had a huge interest for medicine and psychology.. People often think of doctors as those super smart humans, and they’re highly admired for that. But what people forget is how incredibly strong doctors are! You’re amazing!

  2. Jea said:

    Being a doctor has its ups and downs. You just gotta know how to handle it. ;) I’m planning to be a doctor someday. I liked reading this post. :)

  3. Liz(a) said:

    I’m not a fan of doctors, but you seem like you’ll be a really nice one!

    I wouldn’t be able to be a doctor because I can’t see myself ever being able to do a lot of the things on Grey’s Anatomy. However, I do like caring doctors!

    Can’t wait to read part II. ;)

  4. OH my gosh, what an amazingly fulfilling job! Congrats! You’ll be great – no need to worry

  5. Joy said:

    You know, I am impressed. I really do have a deep respect for doctors and I commend you on your dedication and excitement to be one! I mean, who doesn’t want physician who loves what they do?

  6. I really like reading this post because it reminds all of us that doctors are humans too and to be honest are really tough to have to deal with situations like this on a regular basis. I sometimes read articles that write about how stressful this job can be and some doctors even turn to drugs to relieve stress but honestly, can you blame them? I also think that everyone struggles to want to be “good enough”. And think about it this way, if you reach perfection then what? =) There is really no such thing as perfection but there is experience, ok I’m going to stop trying to be deep now because it’s coming out really strange hahaha

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