I was part of a typical surgical gastrointestinal (GI) team with its associated hierarchal structure. House officer (me), senior house officer (one), registrar (one) and consultants (two). They were of course very polite and helpful and predictably spent most of the day in theatre. I had to get used to/learn to ignore the feelings of abandonment I always felt after the 10 minute daily ward round. I was then expected to get on with all the work – writing in the notes, re-writing drug charts, filling in blood forms, chasing blood results (and wondering what to do with them), filling in radiology request forms, chasing radiology investigation results (and wondering what do with them), taking bloods that the phlebotomists could not do, replacing cannulas, updating the patient list, collecting data for the morbidity and mortality meetings, pre-op assessment clinic – the list was endless…
So I was busy. So were my colleagues but as the first days rolled by it became clear that I was the busiest house officer on the surgical ward and rumours that my job had previously been filled by two house officers floated about. Being the naive and non-complaining person that I was (and to a certain extent, still am today), I just struggled on…
Which meant that I was a burnt out house officer who did not enjoy life in those early few months. I eventually moved into the hospital accommodation full-time because I was finding the commute in the morning (two buses) and the hours that I was having to work, just too much to cope with. In fact one day – I fainted before I made it out of the front door and that pretty much made up my mind.
Living in the hospital accommodation was not particularly a barrel of laughs either – every was pretty basic but it was free so therefore nothing much to complain about and I shared a house with at least one nice house officer. The other senior house officer was not so nice but maybe because I kept forgetting to turn off my preset alarm clock – which kept alarming in the daytime, perfectly coordinated for the weeks he seem to be doing nights. One day he approached me angrily because he has had to call security to get into my room to turn the alam clock off. Oops! I could not apologise enough.
My seniors did try and help me in my initial chaos and bewilderment. My senior house officer (I’m sure he was an angel in disguise) would say to me “ensure that you are starting to finish up by four-forty five, so you can leave by five o’clock”. He was a great advocate of the ‘handover’; I however was very reluctant to let go of work that I thought was my own. Sometimes I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all and I found refuge and support from calling the BMA helpline who offered lots of practical advice.
It was not all work work work though. Sometimes I would go for evenings out with the other house officers and senior house officers. I cannot remember much about these evenings really – sitting in the pub whining about our lot was the gist of it! At one point we managed to get ourselves to the multiplex and watch ‘Pitch Black’. I think I even went to a mess party (the only one ever).
For some reason I was constantly in awe of the medical house officers – longing for the day when my six months surgical stint would be over and I could join the saintly medical registrars. It was obviously a case of the ‘the grass is greener’. However they were helpful when our patients would suddenly deteriorate and it was clear that a surgeons knife was not the answer. Then the ‘med reg’ was a God send.
So that was life on the surgical ward – hard work but a good team.
When I finished my first three month stint with the GI team I was transferred to the urology team. After two weeks I soon learnt that the house officer who replace me – could not cope with the job and therefore they reinstated the second house officer for the firm!
I am sure I learnt available lesson somewhere…