What Happens When You Become a Doctor

Any day now and it’ll be the Killing Season, so-called. August 1 is the date when a fresh crop of newbie doctors arrives on hospital wards, bursting with enthusiasm and theoretical knowledge but woefully lacking in experience.

Jeremy's scalpel

In fact August is no longer worthy of that macabre tag. The month now begins with a sensible induction process for newly qualified doctors, with proper training in the tasks and procedures they’ll need to do in the coming months. Gone are the days of ‘See one, do one, teach one.’ The Killing Season is well and truly dead. Induction is a recent trend. I will never forget the utter panic on my first day as a doctor as I crept around in squeaky new shoes trying not to look like the rawest recruit. It was a Sunday—was there ever a more stupid day to start work?—and a patient had the misfortune of dying within 45 minutes of my arrival at the hospital. Now don’t jump to conclusions. I hadn’t even seen her before she died.

HP Rapaport Sprague stethoscope, circa 1981

HP Rapaport Sprague stethoscope, circa 1981

Wet behind the ears, I had no idea of the procedure to follow. Even scarier was the realization that I had two whole wards full of people to keep alive as long as possible. I rushed round to say hello to them all and check they were still breathing. At the same time, I said goodbye to many things: sleep, leisurely weekends, sitting on the loo without being bleeped. In short, to normal life. iv nutrition

While a lot has changed since then, including working hours, some things haven’t, as I realized from a recent blog post by Salma Aslam (by which I mean Dr Salma Aslam) Transitional state: med student to doctor It all came back to me. When you graduate from medical school, you may get a number of different reactions. 1 “Well done, but don’t go round thinking you know it all.” Don’t worry, I didn’t. And still don’t. 2 “So what?” That’s what I got from a group of arts students sitting around in the bar. They acted like they couldn’t care less about my news, but they were probably envious. 3 “Can you have a look at my verruca?”

plantar warts

Count yourself lucky. It’s much worse to be subjected to the long saga, in multiple episodes, of their entire medical history. This is when you get envious of those jobless arts graduates. 4 “The only thing that works for my migraines/arthritis/autism is kinesiology/homeopathy/acupuncture.” The implication is that allopathic medicine does nothing. Well, I’ll keep an open mind about that, only not so open that my brain falls out.

tablets

5 “You should get a job as a medical adviser on Casualty or something.” Yeah, right. Like nobody else with more experience wants to do it. 6 Perhaps the weirdest reaction was from my mother, who insisted I should now call her Dr Cooper. Why? “Because my daughter is a doctor, it’s like I’m the doctor. You may congratulate me now.” Get used to all of it. It may be a while before you hear the most welcome response of all: Thanks, doc. I feel a lot better.”

medical bag

Easy tweet: What happens when you become a #doctor? http://wp.me/p3uiuG-12N via @DrCarolCooper #medicine

Advertisements

Eight Things I Got out of a Trip to Cornwall

How I missed you, Cornwall!

It had been a while since we’d had a proper pasty, sampled Cornish Rattler, clambered over slate cliffs, and stumbled over discarded surfboards on Polzeath beach.  A refresher course was long overdue.

The lessons began before we got there.

1 Don’t take the road past Stonehenge.

Stonehenge sign

By the time you spot this warning sign, it will be too late, because you’ll be stuck on the A303, which has been a single carriageway at Stonehenge since time immemorial, just as the Druids left it. In front of us was a Bedford van spray-painted with hippy daisies and fuelled only by flower power. The guys in the back of the van gave us cheery peace signs as they sat cross-legged in air-conditioned comfort (aka holding hand fans).  We were lucky. Behind us was a broken down Austin Maxi, complete with a couple in 80s style dress trying to get it going again.

As we inched along, we had ample time to speculate on what a henge is, and why, according to popular culture, you get a different number every time you try to count the stones. It may depend on what you’re smoking at the time.

"Stonehenge back wide" by Frédéric Vincent - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_back_wide.jpg#/media/File:Stonehenge_back_wide.jpg

2 You always forget something, no matter how carefully you pack.

On one trip, we’d omitted to pack bookends, much to the distress of my eldest son, then 7 years old, who found he had nothing to hold up the extensive collection of Usborne books he had brought. 

This time it was toothpaste, an oversight easily remedied by visiting the Spar shop in Boscastle, where we also chatted to the locals and their dogs. After that, we had some of the local falling-down juice. And left the toothpaste in the pub.

3 It’s always rainier and windier than you remember.

Wind turbines, photo by Martin Boose

The number of wind farms had doubled since my last visit, and the rainfall had gone through the roof. Quite literally, in the case of the Boscastle flood of 2004. On August 16, 440million gallons of water swept through the town, flooding nearly 60 properties and destroying several of them.

This is Boscastle now, which shows how well it has recovered.

Boscastle Harbour from the bridge

4 There are huge numbers of saints.

Like Saints Hydrock, Petroc, Enodoc, Buryan, and of course Austell and Ives. Some of them are exclusively Cornish, while others arrived via other parts of British Isles. There are even more here.

As you might expect, there are also many churches, most of them small, beautiful, and well worth a visit.

5 Don’t wear flip-flops on cliff walks. 

Slate is slippery when wet. On a windy coastal walk you might want to invoke one or two of those saints I mentioned.

photo by Jeremy Grundy

6 Cornwall is the most haunted part of Britain.

There are said to be haunted jails, streets, castles, even hotels

I didn’t see any ghosts in Jamaica Inn myself, or a single smuggler, just tourists enjoying a hearty Sunday roast. We did however stay in one of the haunted hotels. While I am personally highly sceptical, I can report an unearthly noise outside our door early in the morning, around about the time the staff delivered our newspaper. What are the odds, eh?

7 Take lots of coins, because any place by the sea requires money for parking.

And places away from the sea often come with a sign like this.

cheap camping sign

As thriving as tourism appears to be, further inland towns like Bodmin have hit the buffers. Industry has gone and the heart seems to have left these communities, at least judging from the dilapidated houses and bored teenagers hanging around. Sad sights, and I don’t know what the answer is.

8 All the same, some of the most beautiful places are inland.

bridge in Cornish village

No, I’m not giving away the location of this village. All I’m saying is that it’s not by the A303.

 

10 Vital Signs That Show the Hot Weather Has Got to You

The heat is of nostalgic magnitude. This is London, but for me there are echoes of summers long past in Washington DC, where pavements glued to your feet, or perhaps vice versa.

By TheAgency (CJStumpf) 20:34, 9 February 2007 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I got my DC driver’s license on just such a day, with my mini-skirted backside welded to the plastic seat of the VW Beetle and a dozen or so empty Coke cans rattling around in the back, a testament to the hours of practice I had put in for the test. The official Department of Motor Vehicles photo taken just afterwards shows sweat dripping off a victorious 16-year old face.

There was no respite by day, but sundown would bring honeysuckle-drenched evenings and the sweet sound of soul.

But, as I say, this is London 2015.  The UK Government has already put out advice on dealing with the blistering heat wave (known in other countries as ‘summer’).

Grantchester

I find it very bearable at first, especially by the river.  It’s also rather lovely to water plants in the early mornings, though I note there is no dew.  Then the symptoms begin, building up until there is only one conclusion: the heat is winning.

Vital sign 1: People are saying, “Hot enough for you?” For those who don’t know, this is the customary British response to a hot spell, as traditional as Pimm’s and pith helmets. Considering we’re alleged to talk about the weather non-stop, our meteorological remarks are strikingly unoriginal (see also “Nice weather for ducks” and “Brass monkey weather”).

Vital sign 2: Shops have run out of fans and paddling pools. You can’t buy a desk fan for love or money, says a friend who has tried both. The middle classes are wilting because Prosecco is in short supply I expect pith helmets will sell out soon. 

Vital sign 3: Office workers strip off in the park as usual, but now they avoid the sun. They walk on the shady side of the street and even slink home via dark alleyways, the kind you normally avoid for fear of being knifed for your wallet and PIN.

Vital sign 4: People jump into rivers and canals, risking life and limb.

Pushkin

Vital sign 5: The cat refuses to step outside. I can’t hold my hand on the pavement for five seconds, which is a sure sign that the cat made the right choice.

Vital sign 6: I have an ice cream. The heat must have got to my brain, because I never eat ice cream. I even make gazpacho, ignoring the fact that it always leads to gaz.

Vital sign 7: Sleep becomes impossible without air con or heavy duty pharmaceuticals. Eight hours’ involuntary aquaplaning really isn’t as refreshing as getting in some zeds.

Dyson hot+cool

Vital sign 8: Even Mr Dyson’s magnificent machine fails to save the day. On day two of the heatwave, I rest my head in the freezer atop a packet of broccoli florets.

Vital sign 9: Now commuter trains are cancelled because it’s the wrong sort of heat. Only in Britain. 

Vital sign 10: I’m longing for it to be nice weather for ducks.

nice weather for ducks