After Six Months as a Junior Doctor, I've Handed In My Notice. I'm Too Demoralised to Carry On

"Last week, we had three patients who deteriorated requiring ITU; I cried twice during lunch; I had relatives twice cry on my shoulder in the corridor; and I managed to avoid urinating for 12 hours through lack of time."


A junior doctor on strike outside University College Hospital, London. Stefan Wermuth Reuters

After years of study - a 3-year physiology degree and a 5-year medical degree - while working part-time to support myself, followed by an overwhelming 8 months as a junior doctor, I have handed in my resignation. A drastic change after a lifetime working to reach where I am, so why 'waste' all that training?

I have been anxious about whether Medicine is right for me for the last few years, not knowing if I really wanted the stress and responsibility of having patients' lives in my hands, or the unpredictable and antisocial hours. The new junior doctor contract - and subsequent diminishing morale - has been the final nail in the coffin.

Medical school sped by in a blur – it was all concerned with absorbing an insurmountable mountain of knowledge, interspersed with tears and exams. Nothing can prepare you for day one.

When you are a doctor, when your colleagues are busy dealing with other sick patients, when the jobs hit you thick and fast, you feel nauseous with anxiety and the questions keep coming: doctor, can you do this cannulae? Doctor, can you tell me what's wrong? Doctor, Mr S has spiked a fever; what are you going to do? Doctor, am I dying?

This may seem like an obvious comment, but a junior doctor works really hard. I am not saying that others don't – merely asking for recognition that we do. I arrive at work at 7:30am, having left the house at 6:30am. I am on my feet non-stop all day, looking after sick patients, doing practical tasks, liaising with other teams to work through social issues and discharge planning, talking to relatives, arranging imaging and investigations, and all the bits in-between. It is intense and gruelling.

I am scheduled to finish at 5:00pm, but have only managed to do so three times in 8 months; this week I have left 2 hours late most days, getting home at 8:00pm. This is without any on-call shifts. I have dinner with my boyfriend, before falling asleep in front of the TV.

On my weekly on-call evening shift, along with five other doctors for the whole hospital, I don't get home until midnight. I work one weekend a month where I am rostered to work a 12-day 'week' with intense 13-hour shifts all weekend.

During weekends off, I sleep for an entire day and squeeze my socialising and life admin in to the remaining day of the week. I am so tired.

The last week we were almost fully staffed and it was still relentless. On our ward, we had three patients who deteriorated requiring ITU; I cried twice during lunch; I had relatives twice cry on my shoulder in the corridor; and I managed to avoid urinating for 12 hours each day through lack of time. I can barely cope now and with the future contract I certainly won't be able to.

Delivering a seven-day NHS in all areas without extra staff or money means spreading the already-stretched-to-breaking-point staff too thin. The proposed shift pattern will mean a different doctor covering the ward each day, with no continuity of care.

There won't be enough doctors to cover every ward during the week, rather than just the weekends. In addition, I will have to work longer hours and more weekends. My priority is not salary - I'm taking a pay cut leaving this job - but it cannot be fair that people putting their whole life into a job which is essential to society are getting a pay cut.

I love the teamwork and camaraderie of medicine and I love the relationship I get to build with my patients. Doctors really do care; my colleagues and I talk about you, our patients, over lunch and out of hours. We cry when things don't work out and are elated if they do. We wake up ten times in the night going over things and how we could have done them better.

My colleagues and I don't get paid for working over-hours. We don't leave at 5pm as we are still caring for our patients, working overtime so that they are not disadvantaged by the short staffing or system failures.

I know that it makes a difference taking the time to talk to a patient or relative and I will do so at whatever time I am bleeped.

However, there comes a time when an individual needs to be selfish, and for me that time is now. I have decided that I want more from life: I want to do hobbies that I've forgotten I enjoy, I want to not be tired all the time, I want to see my boyfriend, have fun with friends and start a family.

I cannot see that I can get this from medicine. I have joined the picket line but I can no longer see a light at the end of that tunnel.

I have been offered another job outside of medicine which, after much deliberation, I have accepted. One of my biggest fears was telling people that I was leaving. I felt like I had let the team down and that people wouldn't understand and would be disappointed in me.

Instead, I have never known so much support. I have been inundated with people wishing me luck, telling me I'm brave and telling me they feel the same. I can tell you junior doctors are brilliant, compassionate, brave and resilient people - but they are breaking.

I thought I was alone in wanting to leave but there are many, many truly fantastic doctors who are considering taking a similar route. And when they are gone, they are gone.


Source: The Independent



After Six Months as a Junior Doctor, I've Handed In My Notice. I'm Too Demoralised to Carry On

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