I love being a doctor.
Just like any job, this one comes with its good days and its bad days.
If you’ve just come off a bad weekend on call or you’ve had the kind of shift that made you want to crush your pager under the wheels of a passing ambulance by 10am, you may have a little trouble remembering what the good days feel like. But you know which ones I mean. There are days when the stars align, the consultants are all pleasant and the venflons all go in first time and people who were sick start to get better and someone says thank you and you get something right and nobody is really actively trying to die right now and the folk on your ward are a joy to work with and you don’t have to kick the office printer. Those are great days.
We had a terrible weekend.
I left late every single morning. I haven’t had a lunch break since last Thursday, and neither has anyone else. The patients were all sick – and not the troponin negative chest pain kind of sick, either, but the, “uh, guys, that’s what SVC obstruction looks like in real life, right, HELP,” kind of sick. I’ve woken up grumpy surgical registrars in the middle of the night and faced the wrath of grumpier radiologists at the crack of dawn. We had too many people and not enough doctors and not nearly enough beds, and a bed manager who set out to disprove my point about the night shift bed managers of Zen. We finally ran out of places to put people at half past four yesterday morning and spent the rest of the night in A&E.
Yet, I still love my job.
It’s possible that I’m also at least a bit mad.
Oh, I don’t deny that it has its moments. I’ve been heard to mutter, darkly, in the middle of the very worst of my on call weekends, that I had a job, you know, before I lost my mind and did this. The awful bits haven’t got any easier, not really – the moments with peoples’ families and a box of tissues, the times with too many doctors and too many machines and nothing we can do, and sometimes the dark hours before dawn when it’s just me and a person who is no longer alive, alone in a room together. I can feel myself getting burned out on receiving and I’m looking forward to having a ward again. It’s not that days and nights like the ones we had this weekend are so terribly unusual.
And nobody enjoys the siren call of their alarm going off at 6am.
This job isn’t about the great days. The great days are gravy. On the great days, I have the best job in the world.
The rest of it is what I chose when I signed up for this.
And the way I know that I chose right all those many years ago is that even on the not-great days, even on the bad days, even on the very worst of the bad days, I still have the best job in the world.