A list of dreams, ideas, and tasks that just have to get done.
But we rarely finish our lists? Why?
Some goals are not SMART? They’re not Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Time Framed. But some goals are SMART and we fail to achieve them anyway, or we achieve them inefficiently.
Today I’d like you to stop. Stop making excuses for why you haven’t progressed on the side project you started a few months. Stop deliberating about how to start a dream – just start. And stop doing things just because everyone else is; nobody ever changed the world because they did what everyone else did.
In Medicine, like many other jobs, we tend to subconsciously stereotype. We rely heavily on pattern recognition for diagnosis, and being a certain age/ sex/ gender is part of that pattern. For example abdominal (tummy) swelling in a 20-30 year old woman has different likely diagnoses that the same swelling in a 70 year old man.
However I was recently challenged about my subconscious stereotypes. I was visiting a HIV clinic in the heart of Soho. When the first patient arrived I found myself surprised- they weren’t the patient I had expected. In fact none of them were.
I saw high flying city workers, happily married couples, internationally renowned performers, hard working shopkeepers and smiling children from all over the world, including many different parts of the U.K.
‘Well, my time is nearly done but I’ve had a good innings’, ‘I think I’ve had a good life’, ‘I’ve tried my best, do you think I’ve had a good life?’
Recently a conversation with an elderly patient got me thinking. She was quite old with lots of chronic medical conditions, and whilst chatting she turned to me and was very honest- ‘I haven’t got long left, but I’ve had a good life’.
It’s a conversation I’ve had before, but once again I was challenged. It’s a phrase we commonly use but what makes someone have a ‘good life’ or a ‘good innings’?
This week my ‘Challenge of the Week’ is slightly more light-hearted than previous, but just as important: Fitness.
If you’ve ever seen Charing Cross Hospital you will know that it’s a very tall building- 15 floors to be precise. If you’ve ever visited you will also know that the lifts are quite slow and busy. A typical journey involves waiting for 5 minutes to get into a lift, squishing in with patients, healthcare workers and various pieces of equipment/prams/wheelchairs. Then you stop at every floor- not just for people to get out, but to wave to all those people stuck on other floors who are also waiting for the lift (and keep pressing the button…).
Living in London is busy. Studying at Imperial is manic. Resting does not come easily.
This week I found myself challenged to rest. Everyone works better when they take breaks as well as study, but I have recently found that this is easier said than done! I find it takes a lot of confidence to be able to take a good break without worrying about work. This is particularly true in the run up to exams.
Everywhere I seem to look people are working. I try to be disciplined and take breaks, but find it hard to relax. I start thinking about work, worrying about things I need to do or I simply cannot sit still!
This week the biggest challenge was being a patient myself. Don’t worry readers (aka mum and dad) I was not injured, but found myself needing to visit the dentist for some work, and visiting occupational health for some blood tests and vaccinations for my elective.
It’s probably well agreed that the worst possible patient is one who thinks they know lots (courtesy of a search engine), but in fact don’t know much at all. Well, this was me. First, at the dentist I was looking at the x-rays and standing up whilst the dentist was talking, until I was sharply asked to sit down by the dental nurse!
So this week the biggest challenge was being confronted with death. Sounds strange, but I hadn’t expected it that morning, so I was hit hard.
Of course I’ve seen death before in medical school- the cadavers we use for dissection, old patients on the ward who pass away quietly in their sleep and death certification. This however was different as it was unexpected- someone younger who yesterday was walking around fine, then suddenly today they have gone. It wasn’t predicted or even suspected.
Other than the suddenness of it all, I was also struck by the sadness as the team slowly realised they had done all they possibly could but that it simply wasn’t enough.
This week the cracks from the exhaustion and stress of final year have begun to show. I cannot remember what placement I am on when someone asks, I now dream at night about doing revision and I keep falling asleep on the bus. Finals are nearing; now 5 weeks away- which seems a lot, but there’s also a lot to know. I imagine they will be fine (most people pass and do well), but the general stress levels keep rising- which isn’t easy when you work and socialise with medics!
On the plus side, finals getting nearer means that our medical elective abroad is nearing!
Back in October I joined final year medical students from all over the country, by applying for a job for next year. This was quite an exciting moment, with planning and excitement in deciding what area of the country I would like to work in for the next 2 years!
The programme for jobs is currently national, so all expected graduates rank areas of the country (‘deaneries’) in order of preference. There are over 20 areas, some as large as Scotland, others as small as North West London, and you have to rank them all (harder than it sounds!). The scheme provides jobs for the next 2 years, and it is a great opportunity for many to move to a new area of the country to try; if you don’t like it there it’s not that long!.
This week I have been challenged by the dispute over junior doctor contracts.
This is a thorny issue, and I am not writing to argue my corner. However, I have been quite challenged by how some of the information has been presented in the press. I know that the newspaper headlines don’t represent the general public, but like many I have been saddened by the ongoing debate.
I was therefore massively encouraged to see members of the public handing out badges, flyers and information outside my placement hospital. They were not there to argue about the issue, but to provide information to fully inform the public of the facts and to show their doctors that they are valued.