Junior Doctors: Your Life In My Hands (almost)

I just sacrificed a couple of hours on the altar of iPlayer to watch the first two episodes of the BBCs newest dramatised documentary: Junior Doctors: Your Life In Their Hands. For those of you who have not sold your souls to oversimplified medical television, this program basically involves a camera crew following seven foundation year doctors through three months of their new jobs: what they see, what they do, and how they cope.

I can’t decide whether I think it’s brilliant or whether it’s tripe. The cases are overdramatised and the actual medical content is vanishingly minimalist (and I pity the doctors who, when talking to their consultants, have to massively simplify everything for the benefit of the camera). Despite that, the glimpses into what they have to cope with is real and, for me, dangerously familiar. Assuming I pass finals, that will be me in just over a years time and the thought terrifies me. I am massively underprepared. I know nothing. Final year best be a bloody gold mine of clinical know-how or else I am screwed in a most catastrophic fashion.

Now a rant about the quantity of information ensconced in this program. True: the level of detail required to satisfy medical people would both significantly lengthen the program and make for a rather more niche audience but I feel that ‘The patient is now stabilised, and so-and-so goes back to the ward.’ just doesn’t cut it as an explanation of what happened. What about the thought processes, the actions planned and disregarded, the icy grip of panic in the face of sudden, unexpected complications? In my (admittedly very limited) experience, the phrase ‘The patient is now stabilised, and so-and-so goes back to the ward’ translates roughly to the following step-by-step thought pattern:

1. Shit 2. Okay okay, breathe, take a deep brea-doubleshit. I’m sitting here breathing and not acting. 3. They aren’t breathing, and pretty damn sure they’re not acting. 4. Right, ABCDE. A is for airway, goddamngetagrip. Airway is clear, not breathing, no pulse. 5. Oi! Casual passer by there! Go and find a phone, call 2222*, tell them we have an adult cardiac arrest in ward D3/the car park/the burger king foyer AND THEN COME BACK. 6. Nel-lie-the-el-e-phant-packed-her-trunk-and-said-good-bye-to-the-cir-cus 7. Puff, puff. Where is everyone?! 8. off-she-went-with-a-trump-e-ty-trump,-trump-trump-trump-Nel-lie-the-el-e-phant-packed… 9. WHERE IS ANYONE?! SOMEONE HELP ME!!! 10. [Hours of stress, angst, drugs and nursery rhymes] 11. The patient is now stabilised. Well done team. I’m going to bed.

I’m sure you get the picture. Either way, the medical bits of me want to know what is was that caused the patient to collapse in the first place, and what was done to correct it. Was it high serum potassium from their combination spironolactone and banana addiction causing cardiac arrest? Was it a seizure, and if it was, why did they have one? Tell me details! I need the clinical information gold mine!

It all comes back to that little matter of qualifying in the near future. I want to know what they did in case it helps me when the time comes. I am already scared to death of the responsibility and intensity I’ll encounter in my first job, and that is only going to get worse as it gets closer.

And that’s part of what I like, I suppose. JD: YLITH gives me something of a fair warning, and it reminds me what I’ve been working towards for the past 4 years. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.

*2222 is the national in-hospital emergency number to switchboard and enables you to call out the arrest teams.

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