Friday, 22 January 2010

Before considering medicine as a career......

......have a look at this anonymous post from an Irish junior doctor:

The link is to a post in the health sciences section of a popular Irish discussion forum.

While I think the doc in question has it worse than most, it's an interesting read for those thinking of going down the medical career path. Note the number of responses from other doctors, sharing stories of bullying. I think this is one of medicine's most shameful secrets.

One piece of advice I would give prospective medical students is that you need very very thick skin to be a doctor. I've never had the problems with consultants that the poster in the link had. I've had my share of bollockings, and I worked with a surgeon for 6 months who did, by all industry standards :P, bully me for the duration of the job.

I think I've been lucky, insofar as paeds attracts a type of doctor who's usually patient and caring. But bullying and abuse are most definitely part of the junior doctor package. Senior docs can give quite a lot of abuse (Ireland seems to be worse than anywhere for this...I didn't notice much bullying in Oz or New Zealand), nurses can be very harsh on junior docs (I found Australia and the UK pretty bad for this). Even admin have screamed at me in my time. It might be controversial to say this, but if you are female and from an ethnic minority, you are likely to get it in the neck more often than most (In my experience). But very few juniors get spared.

The standard response from prospective students when you tell them about this issue is:

A) But I know I'll love medicine, so I don't care about the other stuff.

B) I'm going to find it hard to hold my tongue.

Well, I've never met a doc who doesn't care about their working conditions. You spend most of your life in the hospital, and it's important to have a nice atmosphere. All the idealistic stuff doesn't play such a big part in your thinking once you're used to it. But how you spend up tp 14 hours of your day will always be important.
As for holding your's not that hard actually, wen you're embarrassed in front of a crowd of people, and your competence (which most junior docs have doubts about at the best of times) is called into question.

I found that, until I was a registrar, it was open season on me. Anyone in the hospital would speak to me in any manner they choose. I remember what it was like. So, when the nurses on my ward ganged up on a young resident recently, I took them aside and told them to leave her alone or I'd report them all. Just like when my consultant heard about a consultant radiologist who tore up my request form in a rage, and threw it at me..he rang the guy there and then, and told him never to treat me like that again.

I think we all need to stick together. I think senior docs have to watch the backs of the juniors more than they do. If I was advising the guy in the post above, I'd tell him to come to Oz or New Zealand until he's senior enough to defend himself.

Though the fact that I'm even writing this post is a sad reflection on how we treat our juniors.

Feel free to share your thoughts/experiences in the comments section.

Dr. Thunder


  1. First year med student here. The post was a real eye-opener. I'd known of the hard working conditions and long hours, but I'd never heard of the bullying from higher-ups before. I'm finding it hard to believe that mature professionals can engage in this kind of behaviour to be honest. It's disgusting.

  2. Try not to worry about it. It's a bit like an animal herd....the weaker ones tend to get jip from the bigger ones :P So, the strongest, most intelligent juniors who are best at their job, tend to escape the worst of it.
    So make sure you're a good junior, and your boss won't want to upset you :P


  3. Cautioner, I have found that the more "mature" and higher up the food chain the medical professional, the more obnoxious and arrogant they can be. Having said that, thankfully I have rarely been on the recieving end of bullying and I have had (mostly) lovely colleagues, senior or otherwise.

    To echo what Dr. Thunder has said, have a thick skin and know your stuff. Also, don't take bullshit. You are not a skivvy and first and foremostly, you are a human being and therefore have limitations. There are laws against bullying, and bullies should be made aware of that at every opportunity, (I find reminding them of that generally gets them off your case).