Can’t Knock Me Down

I’m back! And I’m so glad to be here. These past couple of months have been some of the most stressful, busiest and miserable, that I hadn’t dedicated as much time to writing as I’d like to.

Since the events surrounding my exam, it felt like for a while I couldn’t come back from it. After about a couple of weeks of feeling rotten and self pity, I realised that I had to get back on track if I had any chance of passing the exam next time.

The hardest thing for me was critiquing myself. Not only this but I also had to work on my confidence… this was seriously knocked off (more so). I tried to think about how should I go about this and then did what most people do when they’re stuck-go on YouTube.

I remember literally youtubing “how to be confident TED lecture” hoping there was something there I could learn from…and low and behold there was!

This video became part of my morning routine every day for two months. I had to keep reminding myself of this gold dust knowledge and whenever my confidence was affected at work (which did happen)…I’d keep this on.

I’d get emails from the deanery which almost felt like they were sending their condolences for my failure. It was heart breaking and non of which instilled any confidence in me. There was some talk about the deanery getting more involved to help me pass, as they’ve done with other trainees, but this never happened. I wasn’t expecting any miracles from them, infact the opposite…and this was nicely demonstrated by a harsh email I was cc’d in from the deanery.

Ironically on the day I got this email, I was introduced to the works of author and entrepreneur Seth Godin and what he said really struck a cord with me…

Don’t wait to be rescued, no one’s coming. 

I realised I was playing the victim. I was called “fragile” and though that might have been true, I hated being called that. That wasn’t the me I knew from university and that wasn’t going to be the me now either. I had to be the hero of my own story, I had to be a survivor.

I read the book the above YouTube video was based on. I also bought the wristband which the video talks about and wore it to work every single day (and still do). If I felt rubbish and lost focus, I looked at my band “my self affirmation” as Dr Joseph calls it and kept going. I persisted at work and studied at home. I almost isolated myself from the others, keeping myself to myself and my head down.

Over the past few weeks my trainer had dropped me for another trainee to help his needs. I tried not to let it bother me too much. Plus, I had better things to focus on. To a certain extent, it may have worked out for me.

It was this alternative trainer I was assigned to that introduced me into the world of “Mindfulness” i.e how to be in the moment and not lose focus.

I was introduced to this video three days before the day of my exam. It could have well saved me. I did this meditation on the morning of my exam and it made me look at the whole experience completely differently-instead of getting nervous I was calm. Instead of worrying what could happen I was quite excited about what could potentially happen instead. I pictured myself passing the exam and being a winner (like Arnie or Tony Robbins), not worrying about any consequences. I reframed the situation entirely.

Thankfully all these tips paid off and I passed my exam. So yes this week has been a good one, after so many awful ones. But I didn’t write this to brag. Far from it. It was to collate everything I learnt over the past couple of months and to share with you things which you may wish to benefit from too…especially if you’ve ever been knocked down.

Just some songs which I think people can relate too…I’ve been a little out of date with my songs of the month, so I’ve made up for it with two of my faves instead

Advertisements

The World Ain’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

This is quite a hard post for me to write. But I figured that if I did, I could overcome what has been an awful past few days- and just maybe put things into perspective.

The reason why I hadn’t blogged for quite some time was that I was hitting the books hard with a membership exam coming up. Books, study, practice and the like… Unfortunately it hadn’t paid off this time, and I failed.

Utterly gutted by a few marks off I was devastated and still am. The results came out on the Monday evening and once I found out,  I was terrified to go into work the next day. I wondered what people thought of me. Word had got around but everybody was very supportive. Having said that, as soon as someone came up to me to give me a rub in the back, arm around the shoulder or a holding of the hand, I’d wait until they left the room, only to burst into tears. I’d let down everybody’s expectations and in the one few times I tried to believe in myself, my faith was shattered.

Yes this may sound like an overexaggeration of things, but it’s just how I’ve felt and I know it’ll hopefully pass. I know I’ve done harder exams during medical school under much different circumstances-I was 18, I was in another country and I was at the risk of being kicked out (there were 90 medical students in the first year, 23 of us graduated). My family needed to remind me of this, and that it really isn’t the end of the world.

My boyfriend mentioned ‘We said that one day we’ll look back at medical school and laugh about it. One day we’ll look back at this exam and also laugh about this’. Are there times when I don’t do anything and my mind wonders back to this failure? Sure. But maybe everybody does that.

The thought of what others think about me runs in my mind still (so says the person who’s blogging about her failure). Helpful quotes have however, tried to keep me going.

Do your best, forget the rest –Tony Horton

Don’t care what the others (trainees) think, just give the world the finger-My trainer

This is a skill I still need to work on, not giving a da** of what the others think.

I don’t know why else I decided to share this really. It was probably just to put it all down in writing, and one day be a distant memory. Plus, I’m kinda used to blogging about the not so great side of life too…remember the burglary?

Every morning this week I’ve woken up with the thought-‘I failed’. Now that I’ll have to get back to it again, when my heart sinks (which I’m sure it will do many a time)…I will try and remember this:

I love Rocky 🙂

Business Pleasure 

As I relax on the couch watching The Simpsons, I reflect on the past few days and more importantly, try to recuperate from the night before. I should probably begin with how the day started…

The morning wasn’t too stressful (compared to the afternoon at least). This was probably because there were no babies for baby clinic, which meant that I could catch up with my paper work. Due to the very chilly weather outside these days, I’ve now stopped opening my window like I used to, just to let some fresh air in. I thought that as my room so happens to be at the end of the corridor, I can keep my door wedged open (usually after the end of a session), while I work. A little sad maybe, but sometimes it’s kinda nice just to hear the voices of colleagues around. It can get a little lonely at times, more so when you’re not feeling so great in yourself.

It just so happened that while I was doing my work, I had the door open as usual when all of a sudden, a baby wondered into my room.

He was a gorgeous little Afro Carribean baby, probably one and half years old as a guesstimate. He walked right into the middle of the room, looked at me, gave me the biggest grin you’d ever seen… and  collapsed to the floor all comfy-like. He had no intention of getting up.

I looked at him completely stunned. I didn’t know what to do! I walked to the door and looked down the corridor, hoping I’d see his mother. It was empty. I then sat back on my chair trying to think…how do I get him back up and out, without making him cry? Not having children put me at a huge disadvantage. All I had under my belt were my baby charms, those I had picked up and started to use in day to day practice. These aren’t foolproof. 

“Where’s your mummy?!”

Was what I asked the baby…hoping to try and sweet talk him. I knew full well that he wouldn’t understand a word I was saying. He just looked at me and kept on smiling. He REALLY didn’t want to leave.

I joined him on the floor, thinking that maybe if I sat next to him, I could try and form a little kinship and win him over. His mother hadn’t come my way yet, so I realised that I’d have to lead him out instead. I held out my hand, in the hopes that he’d hold onto it…

It was a miracle! He thankfully took my hand and picked himself up from the floor. I watched him get up and was feeling really chuffed! We wondered down the corridor together, receiving many looks and laughs from patients and receptionists alike, when we saw the mother at the end of the corridor. Her frightened-looking face immediately turned into one of utter relief. I suppose it was a baby session after all! 

This encounter was definetly something I’d never experienced before. It was later followed by another event that day, and another new experience…the work-do Christmas party. 

I was really apprehensive about this. There have only been a few occasions in my training, where I’ve met with senior work colleagues outside the work place. I’ve been at this surgery for almost four months now, and this was my first time socialising with the team. I was worried that I’d make a fool of myself somehow…and I’ve done that many a time already!

Nonetheless I was grateful for the invite. I decided in the end to put all my nerves aside, let go and go with the flow. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who felt this way? 

I arrived at the hotel an hour later than advertised. This was upon the advice of some of the nurses, although after what looked like a terribly busy afternoon for me, I really didn’t want to rush things. I was dying for a cup of tea and a sit down, so that was my priority when I got home! When I got to the hotel, people from the surgery were still following in after me, so my timing was ok in the end! 

The room we were directed to was huge, filled with many round tables. Two were assigned to our surgery. It was almost like a conference, except there were disco lights and a dance floor at the front! Again, I was updated by the nurses that this was to be expected, but I hadn’t really imagined it so. 

The conversation was good. I was mainly talking to the other new trainees at the surgery, downing my glasses of wine. In the end I had three glasses, and I was feeling the effect of it. I was telling stories of how I’d met Jeremy Corbyn or my motive for eating less and exercising…stuff I’ve never really divulged to the people I work with before! 

I looked around at my other colleagues and wondered what sorts of things they were talking about. They must have known eachother for years, like 20 I think. I mean seriously a long time. To them, I’ll always be just “another trainee”, who will make an appearance in their lifetimes, later to leave and be replaced by another. It is what it is.

By about 10.30-11pm people were already leaving. I suspected it was because they had family commitments, or maybe they were exhausted, I certainly was! All of my work colleagues and seniors, including my mentor went home. In the end it was just me and another trainee, who were the last ones sitting.  I told myself that if I was going to go to the party, I would stay at least beyond midnight. That would be a proper night out for me. 

After all, how often do I get to do this? Rarely if so. When I do go out, I try and make the night memorable as best can be. It’s a night on the town, and nights out make me feel young at heart.

I’ll Be There For You

As part of our training, we are taught that patients often have an agenda when they come to see their doctor. What that basically means is that the reason they say they have attended, isn’t the real reason why they’re there. They’ve come to talk about something else.

In addition to managing the patient’s symptoms and diagnosis, we learn to pick up cues in a patient’s dialogue and offer the listening ear. I learnt this week that you can sometimes pick up an agenda without any cues.

This was a week where I found myself being a part of some eye-opening relationships-both with patients and colleagues alike. In one morning session, I saw two patients in consecutive order, who were both having relationship problems. This included one lady in her 20s who was going through a divorce. Apart from treating her ailment, I didn’t feel like I did anything else. Interestingly however, she ended our consultation by saying:

‘I’m sorry I had to offload on you like that’.

Later on this week, a gentleman came to see me because his wife was worried that he was getting tired more easily. It’s an interesting pattern I’ve seen a few times, when patients will only attend the surgery if a loved one asks them to. He thought he was tired because of his medications, though he had been on these for quite some time.  On delving deeper, he eventually admitted that he was stressed with things at home. He was a full time carer for his mother and this would cause anybody stress and fatigue. It was only when he admitted this that he became teary, and I couldn’t help but feel sad.

The last patient who I want to shed a little light on today (there’s obviously more!) is an elderly lady I’ve been following up on for her diabetes. After discussing future treatment, she went on to tell me about her faith in God, how we are all connected, and how she always does her part to keep healthy. This last little bit is something called ‘shared management’. Doctors love this, becaue it encourages patients to take responsibility for their own health.

This lady then shared a story with me (which out of respect I won’t share here, as beautiful to me as it is). Maybe it was the way she told it to me, but it really got to me. It got to me so much that I tried to hold back my emotions. Usually I can do this. However this was the occasion I would do something I’ve never done before-cry in front of the patient. I tried to hastily wipe away my tears through my cardigan sleeve, but it was too late. I thought to myself…great. She has a cry baby for a doctor.

The patient had seen me weep and her smile turned to laughter. My tears later turned into laughter too, but an ugly site I’m sure! I didn’t know what to think of my reaction, so I confided in my mentor about it. We had a lovely heart to heart, which made me feel tonnes better about things.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s the importance of being kind to people. Its a key skill Dale Carnagie talks about in ‘How to win friends and influence people’ and I try to always keep it with me. But I think this comes at a level. Particurlarly when seeing patients, I’ve read how doctors fall into the trap of getting ‘too involved’ in their patient care, to the point that it starts to affect them, and how they are around others. I don’t think that’s very healthy either, and I think it’s all about balance. One day I’ll learn how to do it.

In times like these I learn to find pleasures in simple things. I start to get more appreciative of the times around me. On the Friday evening after work this week, I popped into the supermarket and purchased a range of goodies for Halloween. This was my first time going trick-or-treating shopping 🙂 We never have sweets when children knock on the door so we thought we’d actually try this year!

IMG_6122

I was drawn by the ‘2 for the price of 1’ offer and didn’t really think about how I was going to give the clusters and brownies…wrap in cling film maybe? I decided that whatever I have left over I’ll leave it in the staffroom at work 🙂

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The Growing Up Stage

I feel like a lot of things have happened these past few weeks. But at the same time not that much, isn’t it a little weird?

Work is getting busy. I’m now seeing more patients a day (about 20, which is a lot for me!) and I really felt the pressure this week when my time per patient was cut down. Because of the increasing number of people I’m seeing, I’m definitely learning more things. I just hope that I’ll get used to the time management side of things.

Sometimes I get little highs of actually seeing a difference in people I’ve been following up, such as a woman who is on the way to losing weight (using a technique I learnt called ‘motivational interviewing’), or someone who is recovering from post natal depression. I now find myself seeing individual members of families for different ailments, like a family doctor. I try to maintain that ‘holistic approach’ we get taught about in our training by building real relationships with patients over time. It’s nice to know that they like to see me, or at least that’s how I’m looking at it!

However because of the higher numbers I am seeing at work, it also means that I get my fair share of patients who aren’t quite as appreciative of our services, simply because they don’t know how overstretched we are as a country. Traditionally general practice was provided by small practices, run by just one or maybe two doctors looking after their local community. This model of care survived over 100 years, but is now being radically changed. Primary care has existed in the UK since 1911, and is right now going through a massive transition due to funding cuts by the government, the increased work load being transferred from secondary care to primary care, and the pressures of having to deal with (some unrealistic) patients’ expectations. All in all this is making me feel very exhausted, and I feel this most towards the end of the day.

Though nothing is set in stone, I can’t help but wonder if I should move abroad. I know some others who have done the same and they are much happier now. They get treated with a form of respect from authorities and patients alike, which we don’t always get here. For all the years we spend studying medicine, (6 years at university and 5 years training in total to become a general practitioner), is it all worth it if we’re not content? The other option is to go FastLane. I just wonder.

On another note I turn 30 in November and though I am reminded that I still have at least a couple of weeks in my 20s, I couldn’t help but feel strange about it all. On looking back on the decades maybe things are slowly getting better, but at the same time there’s a lot more I still want to do and I fear I’m not reaching the milestones I want to achieve. Don’t worry I won’t be listing them all here, that’s for another time. In the meantime I will be tucking into a chocolate cookie dough dessert, that’s what grown ups do.

Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part V

I’ve been spending this weekend back home in London. Unfortunately, it didn’t start off quite so smoothly…

I developed a bout of conjunctivitis towards the end of the week, and was slowly recovering from that. It was also on the Friday when I headed to London, that I heard about the terrorist incident at Parsons Green earlier that morning. People were naturally more cautious about their travels and that included me. What made things more difficult, was telling my family that I was going to the Uganda-UK convention in central London the next day. They were NOT happy.

While I was brainstorming on the train, and trying to think of what I would like to achieve from the convention, I received a certain-toned phone call from the family, asking about the sort of convention I was attending.

Then that classic saying came along:

“We’ll talk about this when you get home”.

No, not an unfamiliar saying. But if anything, it probably fired up my drive more so. Listening to some of my favourite movie themes (yes, this includes How To Train Your Dragon), I was even more focused in my planning for the convention!

I tried to think why it is that parents don’t want us to do certain things. Do they think differently from us? Do they feel like they are losing us? Are they worried that we could fail? Maybe all those things. Or maybe, we’re supposed to be “settling”.

I don’t think such a thing as “settling” exists. To settle and accept things as they are, almost means giving up on life. I actually think that’s somewhat disrespectful to life itself. To strive, however and whatever you decide to pursue, means to live life to the fullest. If you choose to be of service to others, why shouldn’t you? Anything which increases your options is a good decision. If you do the same actions, you’ll get that same results. If you do different actions, you’ll have a different life.

So I went.

After an early morning wake up (6.45am on a Saturday morning is early for me!), I got ready and headed out. The convention itself was quite easy to get to, only a few stops on the underground and just a couple on the railway. Once I got there I signed in, was given my pass and waited around…unfortunately for a long time! It turned out that not only I had gotten there ridiculously early (I thought 9am was quite decent!), but they were running very late. The hall where the convention was being held at was divided into two parts. The front consisted of the stage, the tables at the front and the stand alone seats at the back. Behind were all the exhibition stands. The people who attended were spread across the two parts, though the exhibition area was naturally much louder! Before you realise people approach you, and you can’t help but network as well-exchanging contact details and dishing out calling cards (I was probably one of the few who DIDN’T have one, I don’t think your NHS smart card quite qualifies!).

Sneaky photo before the crowds came

Before the rest of the people arrived 

The chairman opened up the convention with a saying I thought was clever, in the context of us being allowed to use our phones to take pictures!

“Life worth living is one worth recording”.

The convention commenced with the singing of the Ugandan National Anthem. This was soon followed by various speeches given by many distinguished invited guests-such as the Ugandan High commissioner to the UK, and the Vice President of Uganda, Edward Ssekandi.

Vice President of Uganda Edward Ssekandi giving his speech 

One of the presentations which interested me more so, was delivered to us by Dr Ian Clarke-a physician, philanthropist, entrepreneur and the chairman of the International Medical Group. I found his work inspiring, particularly how he used agriculture from his roots to keep his medical work sustainable. I adored his motto:

“Sustainable Development with Social Impact”

I was very fortunate to have a face to face meeting with him, which was just as well as I missed a part of his presentation (because it was during his presentation that we had to register to meet with a specific speaker…funny that!).

The meeting itself was a delight! I had my notebook with my questions written and my pen at the ready, to write haste his answers and advice. However I soon as I sat down, I didn’t even look at my notebook properly. It didn’t seem all that appropriate. I asked just one question, and the rest of the time we just chatted away, completely informal and relaxed. He was taken aback that I was a doctor, as I think he thought like many others, I was seeking for an investment! It was almost like we were uni friends, getting to know each other and comparing notes about medicine and life. I felt absolutely honoured that we spent the length of time we had talking. To me he was like a celebrity, and it was probably my highlight of the convention!

After leaving the meeting room, I walked through a very crowded hallway where out of nowhere, a calling card flung across, hit my face by accident and landed on the floor. I picked it up and didn’t think much of it when a gentleman said:

“I’m really sorry, did that hit your eye?!”

“No no it didn’t, not to worry”

“Oh then you can have it!”

Suddenly there was a loud uproar of laughter and I couldn’t help but join in. But it wasn’t until I left the hallway, that I realised who the card belonged to-the Ugandan High Commissioner!

After a cup of tea and a croissant for lunch (the queue for lunch was incredibly long and I didn’t have the stomach to wait), I managed to speak with some other people in the crowds, before taking my seat at the table. The lecture after lunch was provided by a Ugandan Physician, which captivated me yet again. She first talked about the Diaspora in Uganda. Ignorant as I am at things, I had to look this up. She then spoke about how the healthcare system there is “corrupt and broken down”, and that a lot of work still needed doing. This was followed with a story, one which almost brought me to tears…

A senior physician at her hospital became unwell and needed a ventilator. Unfortunately the ventilator broke down and he was deteriorating. “Hospital X” where he was staying would not let him go to “Hospital Y” to receive treatment via their working ventilator, until he and his family paid the fees. This was in the hundred thousand region and despite appealing to the administration, they would not let him go. “The fees were coming in but his health was getting worse”.

Once the payment was made to Hospital X, Hospital Y refused to take him in. This was because he now needed to pay for the ambulance, and this was even more expensive (in the millions region). SOMEHOW they managed to get this payment sorted and thankfully, he was transferred across. Maybe it was the way she told us this story (which is far better than how I am saying it here), but this sorry horrified me and I was heartbroken.

After a couple more speeches I decided to call it a day. I had taken more than enough knowledge and insight than I could have hoped for and decided to head back, to spend the rest of the day with the family.

My trinkets from the day 🙂 You could only speak with the guest speakers if you applied for a VIP pass-so worth it! 

Attending this convention only reinforced what I want to do with my life. There are many messages which I took home with me, but one of my favourites still is this one, which was mentioned by the Ugandan physician. It couldn’t be put more simply:

“It was just something different and that’s what I chose to do”

Much Ado About Somethings

Why is blogging good for you? Here are some reasons I found:

  • It reduces stress and blood pressure
  • It improves the immune system (don’t ask me how!), mood and memory

There are few things that I’ve been meaning to write about. They’ve sort of accumulated over the last couple of weeks, but I’ll try my best not to ramble on too much!

I’m starting to look closer at what I eat. I couldn’t help but notice what I found displayed at my new practice. It’s advice advocated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (The FAO), but I don’t really know what I make of it.

IMG_5305

I agree with some of the portion sizes displayed. But why is the yellow carbohydrate section so big? Shouldn’t the red protein section be a stand out portion too, even more than the carbs? That’s what athletes focus on. I know with most published guidelines you have to tailor them to the individual. As everybody is different, it’s interpretation will also vary. This would be mine.

I showed this above diagram to my boyfriend. He then gave me the idea of creating a list of foods that I could focus my meals on. But the difference is that this list must include food that I actually enjoy eating, not food I should enjoy eating.

img_53432-e1503841017633.jpg

My makeshift list of favourite foods I love to eat. You’ll notice that fish is the only meat I have written. That’s because I’m a pescatarian. 

I then tried to think how I could incorporate some of these items into an ideal lunch. One that I can take to work that is filling, and will last until dinner time.

IMG_5408[1]

Oats, chocolate protein powder, milk, yoghurt and banana slices. I later added variations such as honey over the bananas. DELISH!

My food musings was the first thing I wanted to talk about. The second thing was work.

I’ve started running my own surgeries, which include the standard morning and afternoon sessions. I’ve done similar surgeries before at a different practice, but for some reason how I look at it all is changing. I think it maybe because of the experience I am accumulating over time, including the increasing number of patients I see. The partners have even got me running the 6-8 week baby check clinics. I do enjoy this added responsibility, because it adds a bit of variety to the day. I think my maturity is also boosted by the added bonus that I can now drive! A particular happy moment I recall was at the end of a busy Thursday this week. I had my raincoat on, my doctor’s bag in one hand and my car keys in the other. I felt so grown up, as I said goodbye to the receptionists at the end of the day.

img_5482.jpg

My first attempt at reverse parking at work, courtesy of my boyfriend-who taught me how to do it

I’ll admit when I first started working here I was naturally nervous. It had been a while since I was in a general practice setting. I was however, taught another invaluable lesson by my boyfriend…accept that you won’t know everything. It was only once I accepted that, that I found myself letting go of my insecurities. I went with the flow of the surgery and whilst I sought appropriate advice, it went much smoother. Maybe that also applies to life-it can turn out smoother when you learn to let things go.


I thought I’d end this post by uploading a simple photo of how we’re spending our bank holiday weekend…by good eats! Yay! Have a good weekend :))