To all the new doctors,
First and foremost, I think I speak for our profession, junior and senior, when I say, Welcome.
Tomorrow will be your first day as a doctor. A day you have probably thought about for a decade or more, but perhaps could never quite imagine.
From Hippocrates to Osler, Galen to Gawande, every medic of every age had a “first day”. Be careful with the advice you listen to, there are as many ways to be a doctor as there are doctors. This is my advice, please feel free to take it or leave it.
1.Looking after humans is a messy business, literally and figuratively. Know where the scrubs are kept. Don’t wear shoes you can’t afford to throw away.
2. There’s always time for lunch. Your stomach won’t thank you for ignoring it, but worse, your patients won’t either. Irritable doctors make crappy decisions.
3. Look after your back. Sit down to cannulate or bring the bed up so you don’t have to. Your fifty year old self will thank you.
4. Be nice to your fellow F1s. They will be the closest colleagues and friends you will make in your career. You will go to their weddings and hold their newborn babies. Like soldiers on the battlefield you will be bonded for life.
5. Be nice to everyone else too- even when others don’t reciprocate. You never know when you’ll need their help. Successful medicine is sometimes about who you know as much as what you know. Learn to know when you should bite your tongue.
6. And when not to. Ultimately the patient is your only priority. If you need to voice a concern, do so, loudly, coherently and without anger, to whoever, however high up, that you need to.
7. Don’t drink too much, if you do. It’s easy to let one glass become two, become three. Don’t drink your stress, find better ways to deal with it.
8. Learning from your own mistakes is mandatory. The price of a mistake is high, you must do everything you can to recoup that cost. Better still, learn everything you can about other doctor’s mistakes, so you don’t repeat them.
9. Find what you’re scared of, and run towards it. I was terrified of cardiac arrests so I used to run to every single one. Now I’m a cardiology registrar. Life is funny like that.
10. If you’re not sure about a drug dose, look it up.
11. Look up anything else too. Google diagnoses when you’re not sure. Don’t be dismayed, your seniors do this all the time, probably more than you. Knowing what you’re talking about is much more important than merely looking like you do.
12. Find a toilet that no one else uses. Trust me on this.
13. Take all your leave. Go on holiday.
14. Recognise you made a choice to be a doctor, take pride in and be empowered by that choice.
15. But also recognise when you see a patient they didn’t get a choice, and they didn’t choose you as their doctor. You have a responsibility to be the best doctor you can be in that moment, because that patient doesn’t get to choose anyone else.
16. Keep your moving boxes- you’ll need them again.
17. Understand you work at a nexus point in a patient’s life. Patients come in going one way in life, but oft-times leave going somewhere completely different. Sometimes, sadly, nowhere at all. That enormity of exposure to Life can take it’s toll.
18. Talk about it. Cry about it. Commiserate with your colleagues, support and celebrate with them too. Deal with your emotions fully, or they will overwhelm you.
19. Try your best, always.
Feel free to heed or ignore any of the above. Add your own pearls as you find them.
Tomorrow is your first day, doctors, and truly the first day of the rest of your life.
It is genuinely the most wonderful job.
Good luck. You will be brilliant.