What to Do When… #1 (A cheat sheet to residency)

Forgive the incoherent title, it’s late and I’m tired.  But now that the new juniors have started, I thought I’d share some tips to not letting the shit get you down.  So for my inaugural what to do when, I thought I’d talk about….

What to Do When Someone is an Arsehole to you on the Phone.

(Yeah I can’t capitalise, I’m so tired I can barely see).

Okay so you’re calling for a consult or your calling the radiology reg.  These are the most likely two circumstances in which someone is going to be a complete prick to you.  Some hospitals give out awards for blocking consults or reviews.  Down the phone their tone is dripping in sarcasm, they ask if you’ve considered this clearly obvious thing which had never even occurred to you, your self esteem is in your shoes and you’re trying not to cry because you’re so stupid you should never have done medicine right?


You never considered that thing because you’ve just finished medical school in the last one or two years.  Or maybe you never learned that thing.  And also you’re not psychic.  And also you’re calling for their expertise, they’re not calling you for yours.

So #1, you’re not psychic, and you’re not stupid, they’re just being an arsehole.

Then they say “what’s your name, I’m going to have to tell my boss about this”.  That’s it. You should quit right now right?  You’ve been found out.  You shouldn’t be there.  You’ve been an impostor all along right?  Wrong.  Wait for it, waaaait for it – they’re just being an arsehole.

#2.  They don’t know you.  No really.  They’ve never bloody met you.  They have no idea who you are, what makes you tick or what you eat for breakfast.  So threats to tell your boss and eat your firstborn because you’re clearly incompetent are just hot air.  They literally don’t know you.  Anyone who tries to judge your performance from a 30 second phone call is demonstrating their own incompetence.  Assessment takes time and repetition, you need to demonstrate progression – it is not what happens in a phone call the first time you speak to someone.

Then you inevitably get some set of demands about how they can’t believe you don’t know xyz, what their cat ate for breakfast 6 years ago, and the knife through the heart…you should know that.  The most useless phrase in medicine.  People who say this are simmering angry, they’ve got so much shit going on that they have no insight into that it comes out in this ridiculous way.  No you shouldn’t know that.  You’re ringing them for their help.  You might not be serving up what they need on a plate, but you’re ringing someone for help.  And when someone in a position of power gaslights, intimidates and says ‘you should know that’ to a person in a much more junior position, not only is it an abuse of power, but wait for it….they’re an arsehole.

#3 You’re ringing for their help and expertise in the care of a patient.  Don’t be afraid to remind them of that but don’t take it as a moral failing that you didn’t have all the information.  And if it was something simple, like maybe you forgot to get the HBa1c for an endo consult – don’t beat yourself up.  Apologise and say you’ll have it for them and move on.  If they go on about it – they’re an arsehole.  And they will.  But if you’re the sort of person who learns from their mistakes (like, you know, most people), you will have it ready for next time and that’s how you know you’re good at your job.

And then you get to ‘well I’m not coming to see the patient until xyz is done’.  Alright there champ, commit to having to take two phone calls.  One of my biggest lessons as a registrar is just see the patient.  You don’t need all the information, just a good clinical question and some background and a request to the caller to find out some more for you.  That’s it.  Anything beyond that is just mucking around.

#4 Get the info and call them back.  You’ll have learned something and they’ll have just created more work for themselves.

And finally, you get off the phone feeling really crappy.  You feel like a failure, you feel down in the dumps, you can’t even articulate all the thoughts behind your feelings.  It affects your work and everything seems to slow down while you battle with your unconscious brain and all the feelings it’s having in the background.

#5 Phone a friend.  Find a trusted person (not the competitive person who will also gaslight you and tell you they have no problem getting consults).  You will inevitably find that the person who gave you a hard time over the phone, gives everyone a hard time over the phone and is reknowned for their behaviour.  Bullies never operate in isolation.  If your workplace has an anti-bullying reporting service I highly recommend using it.  Nothing will get done off a single complaint and that protects people from spurious complaints (some people think getting feedback is the same as being bullied – it isn’t), but slowly and over time, as complaints collect, those slow grinding wheels of medicine move into place and the person either gets the help they need or get moved along.

But just know that when these things happen – it’s not you.  No one deserves to be treated with disdain at work, no one deserves to be barked at for not having all the details – even if it’s a recurrent problem, it needs to be dealt with in a formal way via a supervisor meeting, not belittled down a phone.  Expect better from your workplace.  This isn’t about whoever is the smartest wins.  This is about who cares the most about their patients and colleagues wins.  That’s what gets you the job you want ultimately.  People trusting you to look after their mother.  If they see a complete arsehole to a junior, they’re going to assume that’s how they behave to everyone – including patients.  So don’t accept that behaviour, and don’t ever engage in that behaviour.

I hope that’s not too heavy handed and angry, and I hope even more that it cheers a few of you up.  💖

Looking at life.

I was reflecting on my very long time online last night, made possible by a random sequence of events in the mid-1990s.  Those days are very long gone, as is the Internet as it was back then, it hasn’t really been archived and these days it feels a lot smaller, and a lot more corporate.  Gone are the days of it’s existence largely as a scientific information-sharing service, largely populated by enthusiastic geeks.

I thought back to my old blogs (also long gone) and how so much of what I wrote about was the day to day life of a twentysomething uni student, all the music I liked, and hobbies and random things.  It’s so easy when you’re a doctor to live that role when you get home from work, but of course, if you let that happen, when retirement comes, you might as well scoop out your soul and leave a shell of yourself.

So here is my proof that I do things other than medicine.  I do things.  Like, go to the aquarium with my daughter who has a natural affinity with penguins.  And they with her.


I also work on my home, which we are not into a year of owning and like to bemoan how poor we are.  Like gardening.  Attempting gardening.  See the dead grass?  It died in a very neat line along the length of the fence.  If you look over the fence, the neighbours have done some gardening of their own.  Just saying.  This is an orange tree.  I hope.


You may not know that I am a Swarovski addict.  I don’t care what anyone says about it.  It is sparkly and stays sparkly.


I am also a big fan of high tea with friends.  I like to work my way through high tea venues in cities.  Where else can you legitimately drink champagne and eat cakes without anyone getting judgy?  This one had an all you can eat chocolate bar after the scones and whatnot.  It sounded good in theory.  It is a double edged sword laced with delicious poison.


Meanwhile I continue to drown in college requirements and oddly sexist comments about part time doctors but what can you do?  Work finishes, and the cake awaits you on weekends.


Tiny Little Worlds

As I wrap up yet another rotation, I can’t stop thinking back across my life so far.  It’s been an endless run of mountain climbs, difficult and exhilarating, intermixed with close calls and and dizzying wins.  My intern who is Korean told me that if I ever go to Korea (and I SO will!) that she’d hook me up with places to go and people to guide me. And sitting here tonight I think about my future experiences in a world that’s so diverse and constantly changing and can’t believe my luck.

When I was a teenager things were hard. I hung around with other teenagers for who things were hard, although I didn’t realise it at the time.  I thought they were cool, their lives were cool, there was drugs around and parties and it all seemed so wondrous. And now in hindsight, that world seems so tiny.  It’s hard to put into words.  But I’ve hand my hands on a dying man’s chest, desperately trying to punch it back to life.  I’ve stood on top of a (real) mountain twice the height of Koziosko watching the sun set below the clouds that I am standing above and watched those magnificent radiotelescopes drop their silvery shields.  I’ve driven through floodwaters in the back roads of Grafton in a tiny Toyota Echo praying for my life.  I’ve bought television time for geriatric patient because he had no money and the rugby game was on. His intent keen watching of the game all night was worth it. I’ve looked after a former soldier who had a massive chest tattoo and did terrible things on the battlefield who cried about it. I had a Michelin star or two dinner inside the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been in Italy during the Assumption and watched the townspeople fill up their beautiful little town square singing hymns so beautiful I cried. I’ve seen shooting stars and tropical fish and swum with stingrays and spent hours and hours in The Louvre and The Met.  I’ve fallen in love and gotten married and had a baby who is a universe of experience all on her own.

Parties and drugs? So tiny. Hard teenage years? Over. I understand why teenagers do drugs. Either their experience to date has been so bad that drugs are the first good things they’ve felt. Or their experience to date has been so sheltered that drugs are truly the first exciting thing that’s ever happened to them.  We can all do so much better and expect so much more from our lives, and expect it for each other’s lives. We can offer each other better experiences. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have experienced what I have. All of it. Life in its messy, difficult, exhilarating glory.  Pass or fail for the next exam, it’s all part of it.  It all leads somewhere. 

My intern cried tonight when I left. I made her a friend on Facebook because she’s lovely.  How lucky I am to get to have a new friend, a new opportunity for travel in the future. How lucky I am to live in such a great big world.

Go f*** yourself Cadbury.

If I’m going to practice heavy self censorship I’ll allow myself to swear (it’s a bit of a problem for me in real life and hey, the baby can’t speak English yet so I have some time to work on this).

They changed the recipe for creme eggs.  The chocolate is now salty?!

AND they destroyed the recipe for Red Tulip easter eggs.  That was THE cardinal taste of Easter chocolate.  Now it tastes like sweet gross rubbish.  And they post self-congratulatory stuff on social media when people complain about their focus groups saying how great it tasted.  YOU WERE GIVING THEM FREE CHOCOLATE FFS WHAT DID YOU THINK THEY WOULD SAY.

I wont jump on the bandwagon complaining about smaller family size blocks.  From a public health perspective that’s probably a good thing, and let’s face it, Whittakers Hazelnut is really where it’s at.

Sunday sessions

Homespa - Rolled

It’s taken me a while to learn that you can’t do anything that’s important to you unless you’re pretty relaxed first.  I’ve taken to making one of my weekend days dedicated to hardcore active relaxing.  Everyone is different – some of my friends can’t relax until they’ve run 20km.  Other’s clean their house.  I like to spend an hour on my skin and hair.  I also realised that relaxing has nothing to do with doing nothing and everything to do with ritual and distraction.  I love chill out and watch TV sometimes, but when I’m really stressed, that doesn’t do anything.  It explains why cleaning, running, hair washing, toenail polishing and what have you do a better job of it.

For my darling friends reading this while studying for their primaries – procrastobaking and cleaning is actually relaxing your mind before it can learn!

Here’s my current ritual for relaxing (it changes all the time, and the products you use only matter insofar as you feel good using them).  My hair and skin are a little on the dry side so a lot of stuff below is geared towards that.

1.  Light a candle.  My current go-to is Diptyque Baies – yes I did pay that much.  After 7 straight night-shifts of horror.  It was worth every cent.  I know it divides the masses but I love it.

2.  Brew some tea.  I love T2’s White Jasmine, and I’d run out of everything else!  I’d probably go for a nice fruit and herb blend though if I’d had it.

3.  Put a twenty cent piece of coconut oil through your hair and massage it in well.

4.  Watch an episode of Scrubs!  I’m rewatching it, it’s immensely cathartic for me.  Or you can just wait for 45 minutes.

5.  I wash my hair (but don’t condition) then clean my face with the Clarisonic Mia and Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple.

6.  After that I put a twenty cent piece worth of the brilliant Terax Crema hydrating treatment through my towel-dried hair – its basically lanolin, then put my hair up in a wrap.  There’s some great cheap hair wraps on Ebay, I have a stack of them!

7.  My favourite fask masque at the moment is the Clarin’s Hydraquench Masque.  Smells amazing and leaves my skin really soft.  I slap lots of that on too.

7.  Time for another episode of Scrubs!  If I really want to dig the relaxation vibe, I use my Meditation Oasis app for 30 minutes and do a guided meditation (they’re brilliant).  If you don’t want to pay for an app, then their free Simply Being app is outstanding (I started with that).

8.  I rinse off the hair treatment and face masque, and condition my hair, then dry it off, comb it out with the Best Hairbrush Ever (my Tangle Teezer) and put it back up in another clean wrap (seriously they’re $3.75 for three on Ebay!)

9.  I use the Endota Spa Green Tea and Pea eye cream, followed by their Bush Honey and Macadamia Skin Drink as a moisturiser at the moment.  Both are lovely and the result of a recent facial + splurge.  I don’t think I can justify continuing to buy the eye cream, but I’ll keep up with the moisturiser, it smells like dessert.

10.  After that I slap on a little bit of coconut oil to the rest of my body – and done!  Life seems a lot easier after all of that.

What do you do to relax?


A time to live.

I’m not counting the months (months!) between now and my last post.   But now that I’ve come up for air after drowning for a bit, I’ve decided to make a few changes.  I was originally going to keep work out of this blog but I can’t.  It adds a dimension to my life, an appreciation for the simplest things that I think is important.  Plus I spend most of my life at work.

I’m a junior doctor in a very busy hospital.  I’m first year out.  On my second day as a doctor this year, someone asked me how long I’d been one for.  How do you answer that?  Moreover, how do you answer that when you’re about to do a procedure on them? Two days, but I swear I’ve done this tons in medical school!  I’m not very good at being evasive.

After being a student for far far too long, I’m now getting paid and I can’t tell you how empowering it is to earn your own money, to spend your own money, and to support yourself.  No, I don’t earn squillions and drive a porsche.  I earn less than a registered nurse and I drive a hatchback.  Very very few people in medicine make a lot of money, often at great personal sacrifice.  The rest of us just love our job and are quite content.

As well as my forays into the world of fashion and consumerism, I thought I’d share some work-based anecdotes from time-to-time, some heartbreaking, some funny, sometimes both.  I’m saving them up for you, promise.

Just so we’re clear…

So I thought I should just write this because my first ever comment wasn’t too pleased with me which makes me a bit sad, but there you have it.

I don’t sit in judgement over anyone elses choices. I speak my mind, I have my own, strong opinions, and I have my own value set, and the reasons I do the things I do. I believe that you should have yours too, that it’s a good thing we’re all different. I don’t judge anyone because unless your life is identical to mine, then you are the expert on it, not me.