It is Monday and I am shaking as I walk into the tiny hospital where I’ll be doing my first term as an intern, in a criminally under supervised emergency department (which I’m since happy to report has improved in that regard). I can barely open the door to the junior doctor’s room I am shaking so much, and I can barely open the locker I paid a $5 deposit for to put my stuff in. At orientation I was told to bring common sense and two pens so I’ve travelled pretty light. My clothes feel scratchy and uncomfortable because I had no idea what to wear. A face appears from behind the lockers, a nice-looking older Asian guy and too enthusiastically I say “Hi! I’m the new intern!” He smiles at me and says “I can tell”. I am dying of terror. My pass falls off on my way to the emergency department. I drop my pens. My pass doesn’t work, necessitating a trip to the bored-looking security guys who grab the pass, swipe it in something then give it back to me without a single word. The first patient I see I spend a long time taking a history and doing an examination and thinking about the issues. A little too long. The in-charge doctor rips me a new one for taking too long and tells me to keep it far briefer. I see a grand total of 3 patients the whole shift because I have no idea what I am doing. I lose both of my pens during the shift and I’m pretty sure common sense didn’t come with me to work that day.
It is Monday and I am not shaking because it’s six years later. It’s another new hospital, another job because every 3 months we get a new job. Often a completely new workplace. New bosses you don’t know, new colleagues you don’t know, new patients, maybe a locker, maybe not, no idea where you’re going to keep your stuff because doctor’s who aren’t consultants don’t really get offices – they might get a room with computers but it’s shared with nurses, physios, allied health. You sure as hell don’t get your own phone or computer. Sometimes you stick your bag under the desk and cross your fingers. Today I am carrying a semi-expensive handbag and my clothes match, my shoes are shiny. Again my pass doesn’t work and again I return to security and play on my phone wordlessly while they wordlessly fix it. My bag is neatly packed with ten pens, a pouch with my neurology tools, a stethoscope, an attractive leather-bound notebook, Mecca’s lip deluscious (AMAZING), my phone, keys, and wallet. Switchboard has no idea who I am when I pick up my pager, we shrug and joke about workforce, and I go and meet my new set of faces, new bosses, colleagues and patient’s. I easily get along with everyone, after this long in the game, there’s no point being cold and the sense of relief among us all is palpable. Oh good, not with assholes this time. I ask the nurse in charge before I start if there’s anything previous doctors do that piss her off so I can avoid pissing her off, and when the consultant comes for a round, I ask him to tell me how he likes things written and done. I make mistakes. I forget to fill in a form. I get their names mixed up. It’s the first week, I’m okay with it.
And on it goes. New job, new people, every 3 months. For six years. By the time you’ve gotten to know everyone and your job, by the time you’ve earned their trust, it’s time to move on again. At first it’s exciting. Moving around, meeting new people, entraining yourself into a specialties mindset. But the last 2 years it’s a grind, that perpetually semi-forgetful state bred out of a permanent state of unfamiliarity. And lately I’ve felt envious of the bosses and senior nurses who know everyone and each other so well because they’ve been there for years. Years! Can you imagine in it? Being in the same job for years? Not having to move home, to find a new route to work, where to put your lunch? Not having to reapply for jobs every year? I almost can’t. And I’m restless for that permanence. The argument for this of course is that it broadens your experience and it really does. It’s a good thing because while it doesn’t make you an expert, it teaches you to ask the right questions.
The good thing about being post-exams is that now at least I’m able to concentrate all those new jobs and workplaces into an area I like instead of all areas. I’m at 4 different hospitals in vastly different locations this year and I don’t mind so much because they’re all in geriatric medicine but I’m getting tired and very very restless to start standing still.