The thing about social media is that the frustrations that have always been bubbling under the surface for junior doctors are now spilling over into the public domain. It is evident that the current generation of fee-paying medical graduates have really suffered and there is no doubt that my generation saw the tail end of benefits of being a doctor which are no longer available, but despite this I remember having similar feelings to the current crop of juniors about the same issues.
On completion of foundation training in the Midlands I had the first shock of being shipped off to the south coast for core training. I had applied to stay in the Midlands, my family and support were there and I was now registered for my postgraduate work there as well which suddenly became much harder to do. All the plans I had made suddenly had to be shelved as I moved to a completely new environment.
The first accomodation I moved into on the hospital premisis was expensive, generally poor and subsequently I got evicted due to a condemned boiler. Our second place was in a nice spot but the landlady was a tool and our third place ended up being a small place that was satisfactory. Because of the my career ambitions I was working full-time and then spending weekends back in the Midlands trying to have the family time I needed and progressing on my academic work.
It was hard and I had one choice and that was to complete the year but reapply for ST1 in Midlands for the following year. To maximise my chances at interview I got everything I needed for ST3 except a logbook within 6 months of CT1. I interviewed for an ST1 number in T&O at the West Bromwich Albion ground and I subsequently got the job. I enjoyed the clinical work in the south but the lack of family around meant that we struggled to really feel settled. So in this I have full empathy for the current generation.
Moving back to the West Midlands, I had only one focus and that was to complete my training as quickly as possible. I know that anyone reading at this point will talk about the fact that I have had certain privileges but the reality is that it was hard work and I was prepared to take anything to get it done.
Among the negatives I had I was
- told to sell my car to pay for courses when I asked about study budgets
- criticised for my logbook and told that the one week I took off to recover from surgery is why my logbook was rubbish
- accused of being intimidating because i’m 6ft4 and dared to stand my ground when replying to a rude colleague,
- shouted at and degraded in front of an entire trauma meeting by a consultant with personal issues
- threatened with reports to the GMC for probity by a cantankerous old (non-clinical) professor because a perfectly legitimate audit didn’t have a registration number (at that time the hospital I was at didn’t do registration numbers)
- subject to constant negativity by said professor for my PhD because he wasn’t in any way involved in it and I think he expected I kiss the ring.
- frequently chasing payroll to correct my pay…
But despite all of that I had a single-minded focus on July 2018 being the CCT date I was given when I first started ST1.
I changed hospitals every rotation, I adjusted what I needed to and I made the most of whatever situation I was in. I was sent to a hospital to build up my knee replacement numbers but due to boss illness and winter pressures I only got a fraction of what I needed. But on a positive note I got all my hand surgery competencies completed instead.
I completed my PhD whilst in training. It was a combination of good fortune, good planning, and incredibly hard work. A close colleague managed two Master’s degrees whilst in training and there are plenty of people who managed to do something similar.
I acknowledge that this is not possible for all. Those with caring responsibilities and other such challenges would’ve missed out on this. However, it is unfortunate that my achievements are more likely to be used by many to highlight system unfairness than to celebrate the hard work that went into it.
Completing my training without any extra time added was fantastic for me and i’m glad I didn’t have to train during COVID but I did put in the work and time. The current system may advantage some over others but I’ve seen first hand the huge variation in commitment and dedication shown by junior colleagues.
My fellowship in Sheffield was focused on operating and teaching. I tried to take my negative experiences as a trainee and make sure I was better. I think i’m succeeding, but i’m also realising the stresses that come with it. With that in mind some of negative experiences I had don’t seem so bad now that I can empathise with my trainers.
Overall as a trainee I had a brilliant time with almost all my trainers and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are always going to be some negatives but it really depends on how you react and adapt. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight to make things better, we just shouldn’t lose sight of the original goal.