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November 14, 2020

One Year As A Doctor

For the last 10 years I’ve been preparing to be a doctor.

Now, I can tell you what it’s like to be one.

Despite gruelling night shifts, late finishes and working through a pandemic, it was all ok because I was finally getting paid.

And, for all the new doctors about to start work this August, I’ve collated a few tips that I think might help you:


Going from ‘medical student’ to ‘junior doctor’ was a big leap, one I had to take overnight.

Before, my job was to learn.

Now, it was to get things done.

I remember starting on an 8-day stretch which included 3 on-call shifts, trying to survive each day as it came.

I was always reactive, never proactive.

I was never one step ahead, bouncing from one place to the other, just about managing to hold myself together.

There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with looking after real humans, particularly when you’re accountable for when something goes wrong.

How do you overcome that anxiety?

You adapt.

You adapt to operate how your colleagues operate.

You adapt to speak like they speak.

You adapt because you want to survive, it’s a survival instinct.

The quicker you adapt, the quicker you feel the comfort of having a base-level of competence.

Adapt quickly, so that you can escape survival mode and start working towards excellence.

Ask Dumb Questions

“The only stupid question is the question that is never asked.” — Ramon Bautista

Firstly, I don’t believe in ‘dumb’ questions, but I use the phrase synonymously with questions we hesitate to ask in fear of reprimand.

‘Dumb questions’ are probably the quickest and most efficient way to ensure you become a safe, competent doctor.

If you don’t know something that you think you should know, it’s crucial that you find out that information through one way or another.

If you’re socially anxious or think that the person you need to ask won’t be receptive to helping you (it’s sad, but happens), that’s ok, but you now have the chore of looking this up in your spare time.

If and when you can, ask that dumb question.

I make it a habit to ask ‘dumb questions’ whenever I can, particularly in group settings.

Considering that a lot of medical discussions happen in groups, try and get accustomed to it.

Here are a few reasons why asking the ‘dumb question’ is exactly what you need to do:

  1. If something is mentioned once and you don’t understand it, you need to clarify it so that the rest of the discussion doesn’t go over your head. Otherwise, this could affect your patient care.
  2. You might get asked a question later on the topic. It’s humiliating to then say “sorry, I didn’t know what you were talking about”.
  3. Your colleagues might be too shy to ask the same question. Step up and be a leader so that others can benefit from your courage.
  4. People respect honesty. Saying “I don’t know, but I want to learn” is a respectable trait and most people are incredibly receptive to it. It demonstrates that you’re being attentive and not afraid to put your hand up when you don’t know something.

Ask the dumb question.

Teamwork is Great

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” — African Proverb.

When it comes to work, I naturally gravitate towards doing things alone.

My inner perfectionist prefers not to take chances on dependent variables.

So, I’ve been forcing myself to work in teams for the last few years, and working within healthcare has been an absolute delight.

Here are some quickfire lessons on working with:




Everyone else:

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

It’s a nice feeling to finally be comfortable in your day job.

You know where everything is, how it works and how things need to be done.

But if there’s no challenge, that’s where the excitement ends.

No growth ever came from the comfort zone, so try and push yourself to learn new things and pick up new skills.

Remember, get 1% better at something everyday for 365 days and you’ll be over 37 times better than you started.

Don’t settle for comfortable, chase that extra 1%.

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Every week, I write about self-development, meaningful living and all things that matter.
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