Out-take | from a story which will never be written

“Do you ever wonder why some people become doctors?” Samantha asks the question with a serious look.

“Money,” Daniel replies without hesitation.

My eyes flicker to the steam rising from my cup of coffee. Ernestine leans forward, glasses almost reaching the tip of her nose, as she presses her elbows into the table.

“Love for humanity,” she whispers with determination.

Samantha smiles at her a little sadly. I can feel Benjamin shift behind me, out of my line of sight. His silence motivates me to speech. Keeping my eyes on the coffee, I murmur,


Samantha nods; I can feel Ben’s eyes trained on my back. Rene, however, plucks the cigarette from her lips and fixes me with a disregarding stare.

“Nobody’s forcing you to be here,” she says nastily.

Rene and I have never gotten along; I disapprove of her suicidal bent and she takes umbrage with my warped morality. So I barely even react to her outburst.

“Nobody asked you, Ren,” Ben growls. Like a protective papa bear. He’s like that these days, and sometimes I’m curious enough to see where it will lead. But not today. I offer him a slight smile and, ignoring Ren, and turn to face Samantha. She looks like she regrets opening the discussion.

“People don’t always get to do what they want,” I tell her gently. “Being an adult is about doing what you have to do.”

From behind her cloud of smoke, Ren sneers but offers no other comment. Samantha sighs. She’d like to believe we all get along in this circle of half-friendship but the truth is that our personalities generate an uncomfortable friction. A static electricity that puts everyone on edge.

“Which all boils down to money,” Daniel reminds us triumphantly and launches into a tirade on the dire straits of world economy.

I let his words wash over me as I sink back into my seat. Daniel is content to listen to his own voice for hours, and I . . . well, I would rather not think about anything much for a very long time.

Clinical Advice: “Wear Good Shoes”

If I could give you one piece of advice to surviving your clinical years, “wear good shoes” would be it. The rest of my advice has no basis other my own meandering experiences.

General Words

1. Be nice to the nurses, even when they’re not nice to you (and most of the time they won’t be). The phrase “kill them with kindness” has never been more appropriate.

2. Don’t be the student with the smartphone who spends their time on ward rounds tweeting.

3. Do be the student with the smartphone who looks up the answers to share while the consultant’s back is turned.

4. Never lose your consultant on ward rounds. They will prove impossible to find.

5. Patients will die. You will not be prepared.

6. Try to remember to sleep and eat.

7. Invest in a notebook that can fit in your pocket. Take it everywhere.

8. Don’t overdo it. Whatever people may believe, persons in the medical profession are just as human as everyone else. We all have limits; respect them.

9. Go to school. Please.

10. Don’t be a suck-up. In the future you’ll be practising medicine with the colleagues you spurned, not the superiors you kissed up to.

11. Be prepared to suck. Now, as a junior, being wrong is funny and correctable. As a senior, consultants will fail you for killing your hypothetical patient. Make your mistakes now.

12. Don’t take medicine personally. Your aptitude on the wards/in clinic is not a reflection of who you are as a person. Some days will be better than others but don’t let the horrible days make you doubt your self-worth.

13. Always take the opportunity to leave UHWI. Cornwall Regional and Kingston Public Hospitals are where you will get all most of your practical experience. And everyone is nicer there.

14. Get used to packing, un-packing, re-packing and doing it all over again in a matter of weeks.

15. Lower your expectations, of everything: doctors, patients, the government, the facilities. The joy of medicine is really more like a resigned indifference.

16. Don’t expect kindness or for things to be easy, so be grateful when they happen.

17. Balance your time. Med students study hard but they party harder.

18. Recognize that each consultant thinks his/her word is gospel. Like all gospels, they will frequently contradict themselves.

Academic Tips

19. You will never get asked about the topic you read the night before. You will always get asked about the topic you said you were going to read later.

20. So read. Read all the time. Read everything.

21.  Prepare for your tutorials. You will actually be able to follow the discussion.

22. Dress appropriately. This is a hospital – there are gross things everywhere. The less skin you show, the harder it is for the microbes to get you. And you don’t want to be the student in the consultant’s anecdote about wardrobe malfunctions.

23. Common things are common. Don’t be the med student who hears hoofbeats and thinks “Zebra!” (But if you are, don’t worry. We’ve all been there).

24. Practice your clinical examinations. All the time, everywhere, on anybody who will let you. You can graduate without knowing how to site an IV, but you will fail third year if you can’t competently examine an abdomen. (You won’t, but everyone will think you’re an idiot anyway).

25. Hold on to that sample case note from Introduction to Medical Practice. It will come in handy for your multiple graded case notes in third year.

To all the third years about to start their junior clinical rotations on Monday, good luck and Godspeed.

Edited to add: Oh my goodness, the abdomen station was removed from this year’s junior exams and that makes me hopping mad! (It is also probably way harder to catch the bad students now).

Nice Things I Like

There’s a file on my computer called “Nice Things I Like”. It’s not Yoda-speak; I just happened to like the cadence of the words in that order. It’s filled with meaningful quotes and poems and songs I’ve come across in my sojourn across the internet.

This post is a little bit like that file.

Is there anything this man can’t do? Comic books, critically acclaimed novels, movies, TV shows, and now a video game? Neil, can you please be my daddy?

It’s a touching article on being an almost-doctor. Funny, sad and dangerously honest.

  • Still Into You by Paramore

This amazing Paramore song has been stuck in my head all week. Do not watch if you are averse to happiness or cutesy romantic themes. Or sparklers.

The official lyric video is also the cutest finger puppet show I have ever seen.


Thank you for your footprints

Sometimes being a medical student is a thankless job. More often than not it involves a lot of bowing and scraping, yessir-ing and yesma’am-ing. Trying desperately not to look like an idiot in front of the consultant, staying on the residents’ good side, befriending the interns and obliging the patient all have to be juggled on a daily basis at the hospital. It’s all a part of the job.

Did I say job? I meant it’s all part of the paid humiliation disguised as learning.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all bad. It feels good to answer a difficult question correctly, to be commended on a good examnation, and to site your first (successful) intravenous access. These are the priceless achievements for which we sweat and toil. And the payoff is usually worth it.

But you still have to put up with the consultant forgetting your name, the resident stealing your pen and the patient whose endoscopy you’re assisting passing gas on you for the fifth time in five minutes.