Updated: Feb 28, 2019
When I went on my elective in Trinidad , I remember one of the friends I made saying that she would often remind people that there was not only one medical degree to obtain at the end of medical school, but that there would be enough degrees to go round.
It was a heavy sentence in my mind and I mulled it over in my head over many months, simply because it made so much sense. Medical school is hard, and doing it alone is even harder. Rather than having friends you find that you end up with competitors. People who would do anything to get a few more marks than you on the test, people who won't tell you what textbooks they are using because they are afraid that it means you will perform better than them. Other things include: people forming secret study groups, people directly lying that they are not revising when they are the first to get into the library on Saturday morning. These are all things that I have observed and there are even more examples which I have decided not to list.
A few months back my colleague and friend sent me an interesting article on an Australian doctor who tried to commit suicide as a Junior Doctor. The beauty of the story for me was that, at the time he felt none of his colleagues had noticed what had happened. It was only years later when he talked about the story on social media, that his colleagues informed him that they had noticed that things were not going well and had even noticed his plans for suicide. As a result of this, they staged an intervention and interrupted him in the process, without him realising that it was not just merely a coincidence. In addition to this, his colleagues had agreed amongst themselves not to talk about it/refer to it.
In the media this week the plight of doctors was further highlighted by a a popular Paediatrician who mentioned that as well as going to the funeral of some of his patients. He had also had to attend the funeral of friends.(https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6594941/Prominent-paediatrician-slams-rate-suicide-doctors.html).
As a doctor, you go through medical school with a rollercoaster of emotions- the fear of failure being the biggest, at times the feeling of not being good enough and the worst the feeling of being alone in regards to your insecure feelings. No one likes to talk about the Elephant in the room. In addition to this, there is not always room or time to talk about how you cope with the things you see in hospital or the difficulties we face studying and trying to have a balanced life.
However we should be talking about these things with each other. This is where the title of today's reflection comes from. Be your Brothers Keeper. It is really easy to be fixed on your own personal goal and live like a hermit in medical school. But I want to implore you to show compassion to your colleagues. We all have good days, in fact even brilliant days, but we also have days where we struggle. That could be struggling with finances as a student, but even more basic struggles could include having difficulties getting a good revision routine and just generally not feeling confident and the general feeling of demotivation.
It costs nothing to be kind to each other. Be that a smile, an offer of time to help that struggling friend. Or even just lending a listening ear. It costs nothing to pick up the phone and ask your colleague, acquaintance or friend if they are ok . We are in the caring profession afterall and as they say charity begins at home. Some of my best times at medical school or at work have been when colleagues have showed me acts of kindness. Or even just a word of encouragement.
Overall what I am trying to say is we have a duty to look after our patients, but we also have a not so obviously stated duty to look after each other. Someone once told me that you never say goodbye in the NHS and time and time again, you come across people you have worked with in various capacities. We are indeed a family and families should look out for each other and not seek to tear each other down.
So when you have a free moment , call that friend you have been meaning to call, surprise them , go and check on them if you can. Buy your tired Junior Doctor a coffee or offer to hold their bleep while they go for a ‘royal wee’.
Above all, remember it costs nothing to be kind.
From the Mr Revision Team.