The short straw

I qualified as a doctor in the year 2000. Perhaps one of the scariest years of my life.

I had spent 6 years in medical school but starting as a house officer on the surgical ward was the start of another education!

I do not remember much about the first day of work at all. I am sure we were introduced to the relevant doctors, nurses and management. However what I do remember clearly was the decision about who was going to be on call for the first night. It seems there was no pre-planned rota or a locum booked. I literally got the short straw. After that ‘democratic decision’ – I found it difficult to think clearly. The only thought that went round my head was “I’m on call! I’m on call!”

When five o’clock rolled around – I got given the on call bleep and walked down to accident and emergency department. I remember clerking a few patients but I guess they must have been the ‘routine’ abdominal pains. At eight pm I was then changed to ‘ward cover’. I did not really understand what I was meant to be doing on that first evening shift, so subsequently I was collared by the first nurse who met me – I spent much of the time re-writing drug charts (that should have been completed in working hours!). Luckily my bleep did not go off too much; perhaps my senior house officer was fielding all the calls!

When I finally finished at midnight – I somehow realised that I had not eaten or arranged for somewhere to sleep. Lucky for me, my parents, ever vigilant, brought me food and helped me find my hospital accomadation.

After eating rice and soup, I feel into an exhausted sleep. At least the first day was over!

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