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Help was there, and I needed it

I arrived early to organise myself but as soon as I walked in I was asked to certify someone’s death. Having never done this before, I asked the FY2 to come with me to make sure I was doing everything right.

It felt quite odd examining someone who had passed away, something that is obviously very unnatural for me as a one-day-old junior doctor.

I found it really sad seeing the patient’s tearful family members outside the room as I left, but they were so grateful with the way she was looked after in her final days.

I return to the doctors’ room to meet the night team; some new faces and some I have met during my placements at medical school, which is nice. I write my list of jobs to be done: post-op assessment, gentamicin levels, blood results to chase up, catheter insertion, post- transfusion bloods, heparin infusions, 12-hour troponins, fluid assessments and ...oh goodness, here we go again.

First port of call, high dependency unit for a post-op assessment of the patient I had clerked in the night before. The patient is not well. My FY2 has been called down to emergency theatre so I’m alone. The patient’s blood pressure is dropping so I try a fluid challenge and nothing happens.

Meanwhile I am trying to phone theatre, where all of my seniors are, to get some advice. It is hard for them to step out of an major operation but they tell me to phone the surgical registrar who looks after downstairs, he arrives in less that two minutes and tells me the plan for this patient. I am so grateful for his quick response. They did tell us in our induction that ‘help is always there for you when you need it’ and it was.

I am told to order an urgent portable chest X-ray for the patient, and then follows one of my most embarrassing moments to date. I phone the switchboard and ask for the number to the out of hours x-ray department. The man at the end of the phone tells me to hold the line and puts me through ... it rings and rings and I wonder if I have been given the correct number when all of a sudden a tired voice answers the phone. I introduce myself and ask how I would go about ordering a portable chest x-ray ... silence ... I ask if I have put through to the right department and the response goes something like ‘I am the on-call radiologist, the consultant. Who gave you this number?’

Oh. My. Goodness. My heart skips a beat when I realise what has happened, I cannot apologise enough and the phone goes dead. I am utterly mortified. You always dread the moment you have to wake a consultant from their bed but I was hoping my first phone call would have gone slightly better than that! One day I will look back and laugh at that moment, but today I just wanted to hide my face in embarrassment after what had just happened.

The second night was definitely worse than the first. At times I actually thought I was going to cry, but I tried my best and worked my socks off all night. I really think I am going to get fit doing this job. Most of the night felt like chaos and I feel like I am taking forever to do things because I don’t know where anything is and I’m looking up drug dosages all night - just to be sure.

I have never felt so physically and emotionally drained as I leave the hospital for the second morning in a row, I wonder ‘am I really cut out for this?’ Let’s hope that in time and with more experience this will get easier.

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