I started F1 (many eons ago it feels like) with trepidation and excitement, it was about a 60/40 split in excitement’s favour. Finally after all the hard work and tears (there were a LOT of those) at medical school I was a qualified Dr, somehow (and God only knew how) I’d done it, I was going to be one of those confident junior doctors I’d seen on the wards during my hospital placements.
It very soon became clear to me (and everyone else as time went on I think) that I wasn’t one of those confident people. I was gripped with a horrible anxiety, fueled by my conviction of my inadequacy. I watched as the other F1s went about their jobs seemingly free of this dread and anxiety that I wore like a coat. I worked with one girl who seemed to know more than I did, somehow wrote beautiful patient summaries in her flawless (readable) handwriting before each ward round and managed to play hockey with the hospital team. I didn’t know how she did this as it felt like I was barely managing to make it through nearly everyday without bursting into tears. Another girl would walk serenely down the corridors seemingly at peace with the world and all around her, no trace of the dread I that I felt every day I walked into the hospital.
I never spoke to anyone about how I was feeling at the time. I missed my friends and my amazing church in my university town and wished and wished that I hadn’t chosen to “explore another part of the country” and move 4hrs away. Even when speaking to these friends I didn’t let them know how much I was struggling because it felt like a failing somehow, to not be able to cope with what every one else was coping with. I seriously thought about quitting and that would have been the ultimate failure (or so I felt).
It wasn’t until about a year later that I was talking to a friend about how I’d felt in F1 (that same serene walker) when she admitted that she’d also found that year difficult. She used to live with my colleague with the beautiful handwriting and said this colleague had also been very anxious but had hidden that anxiety by staying up late working, trying to know as much as possible. That was a revelation to me, if I, my serene friend and my knowledgeable colleague had found that first few months and year difficult then how many other people had? and why had no-one said anything? How much better would that year have been for the others, not just myself, if we’d had the confidence to talk to one another and been honest about our struggles?
You might say that as I Christian I should perhaps have been the one to drive this atmosphere of openness and courage and you may be right but I am also human and am driven by the same fears, anxieties and hubris as my non-christian colleagues. I didn’t want to look like a failure in the eyes of colleagues or seniors and it can be hard to admit even to yourself that you are not doing as well as you thought you would. Now I believe I have grown a little since then, I still find work difficult but I am being open about the struggles I face more and more. What kept me going during those dark days of my F1 year was (1) the knowledge that nothing worth doing was ever easy and (2) God would not have placed me in that job, in that place, if I wasn’t capable. He will not send you out unprepared and then leave you alone. We may feel totally unprepared and inadequate but He equips us before we go out and sustains us while we are there, all we need to do is remember this truth. His word says He equips us for every good work and that He will never leave us or forsake us and this is the hope that we can stand on.
So why have I written all this? What’s the point I’m trying to make? Well its this: as doctors we will find our jobs difficult, we will make mistakes and we will fail and we need to own that, we need to be able to open up and talk about these things because that’s the only way we can help each other. Be encouraged, next time you feel like you’re the only one finding this job of ours hard, next time you’re feeling inadequate or not good enough remember that you’re not the only one, that colleague that looks like they’ve got it all sorted and under control is probably feeling exactly the same way you are; so be brave, take the step to open up and you might find you’re not as alone as you think (obviously if you know them well enough and feel able to talk to them, I’m not saying to share your fears and insecurities to the locum SHO you met 2 days ago).
Until next time, be encouraged 🙂
Any thoughts or comments? Please post, I’d be interested in hearing your stories