“Doctor, can this patient please have some laxatives?” It was a simple question that filled me with dread as the drug chart was thrust into my hands. It was my first day as an FY1 on a surgical ward and I was terrified. What do I prescribe? Do I need to assess the patient? What if it was a bowel obstruction that I had missed?
Five years had seemed like such a long time when I was at medical school, but in that moment I didn’t feel that fifty years would have been enough to prepare me for being a doctor.
I hadn’t always wanted to be a doctor; when I was younger I had been more excited by languages and maths. When it came to choosing GCSE options, I took triple science, partly because I didn’t want to do anything else in that third column, and partly because that’s what my friends were doing. After a couple of months of human biology, I found I really enjoyed it, and so began my ambition to become a doctor.
Throughout my first few years at university, I didn’t engage with CMF. I tried a few churches around my various student houses and placement sites, but nothing seemed right. Towards the end of fourth year I started to attend the CMF Open House meetings. I enjoyed the interaction with other Christian medics, and looked forward to hearing their views on various medical topics.
My first months as a doctor were hard. My days were frequently 12 hours long, and I was struggling to cope. The smallest tasks easily overwhelmed me, and I was often crying in a corner being comforted by a caring nurse. My walks home to my new falsely adult-looking flat were invariably spent crying down the phone to my parents about what a bad career decision I had made.
During this time it was easy to think “why is God doing this to me? What have I done so wrong to deserve this as a punishment?”
I attended my first CMF conference as a junior doctor a slightly broken person. Physically I had lost weight from countless missed meals that had been replaced with just finishing that “one last discharge letter”. Mentally I was seriously doubting my ability as a doctor, and was questioning the likelihood of me continuing in the medical profession.
I found the conference incredibly refreshing. It was lovely to catch up with friends from medical school, and to meet new people there too. I was touched when someone I didn’t know took the time to ask how I was doing, and really take an interest in how I felt. We had a long chat about my job, how I was finding it, the specific things I was struggling with, and what I could do to make positive changes to improve how I perceived and coped with working life.
Buoyed by this and ongoing unconditional love from family and friends, my life started to look brighter. In December I rotated to a medical job where I absolutely thrived. I felt part of a team and my confidence started to grow. I still had tough days at work, but by this time I had developed a toolset of strategies to deal with different situations. I even started to have time for lunch!
My first rotation as an FY2 was another surgical one. I was scared that it would be a replay of my FY1 rotation, especially when on call the first weekend and struggling immensely with the confusing new computer system.
However this time I was ready for it. I had a team around me (one of which comforted me with carrot cake – always a win), and I was more resilient. Despite a couple of hiccups and another steep learning curve, I began to enjoy being a surgical SHO.
This time at the CMF conference, I felt stronger. I was so excited to tell the friends I had made there the year before how much my life had changed for the better. The weekend was again a great tonic, from which I learnt so much.
We studied Daniel chapters 1-4. The verses that stood out the most to me were Daniel 3 verses 24-25. King Nebuchadnezzar had just ordered Daniel and his friends to be thrown into the blazing furnace, as they had refused to worship and idol Nebuchadnezzar had made: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisors, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied ‘Certainly, your majesty’. He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods’.”
God may not take you out of the flames, but He will be walking in them with you. No matter what life and work throws at you, please just remember that God is with you, walking every step of the way by your side.
Posted by Megan Chown, FY3 Doctor, Yorkshire and the Humber