TPER - Thought Provoking Episode Reflection
It was my last day in surgical rotation. It had been a really tiring week and to add on that my team was on call on that day, so we were covering admissions from ED as well. It was by far, my worst day in the whole ALM4 year. It started that morning during the ward round. The consultant decided to "involve us more in the patients' care". He started to ask us lots of question about the investigation results' which he never did in the past three and a half weeks. I failed to understand his motives to do that in our last day of the run. He was probably felt guilty of being away so much that he had not enough time spent with us to evaluate us for PASAF.
It was my turn. I was asked to interpret an abdominal x-ray of a patient in ED, which I did poorly due to nervousness. I was ridiculed in front of the whole team because of that. No one in the team had backed me up or say something in that five intimidating minutes. I thought we are supposed to cover our colleagues in that kind of situation? At least that was what I learnt in the first week of ALM4. I thought that was bad enough, little did I know, the day had just begun.
My colleague and I was left with our registrar in ED because we had several patients to be seen. I never feel comfortable communicating anything with our registrar. She always makes every student in the team feel really inferior and due to that, a lot of time, I feel really intimidated by her. I would make sure I only make necessary contact with her. She was grilling us with differential diagnoses of RIF pain while sorting out things for the patients. I looked at my watch. It was 20 past 10. I knew I had to do a pre-admission for one of the consultants in the team at 10am. I was contemplating to ask for her permission to go to pre-admission. Nevertheless, I did.
"(HO's name) has asked me to do a pre-admission"
" from my point of view, you asked from him to do the pre-admission" she replied while looking away.
I was really upset to that claim. I could argue with her if I wanted to but I was just really tired and not in the mood so I just left. Along the way, I sent a text message to my house officer trying to understand why people were so mean in our last day of surgery run.
I did the pre-admission and it was time to present it to the house officer. He insisted to find an available room. I was a little puzzled because I could just present it at the nurses' station like we always do and to be honest, there were not much issues that will risk the surgery for this patient. He found a room nonetheless, closed the door and made me sit down. I was more puzzled at this stage because nobody had done that before for just a pre-admission patient presentation. He sat down and said:
"Look, don't mind about people."
I looked at him trying to understand what he was talking about.
"Don't mind about people. You will always find people like that in your life. I know you. I have seen you taking histories and doing examinations. You can do most of the things. You are not bad. Just don't listen to these people"
My eyes got teary when I heard those words. Only then I realised that I was really badly hurt and upset by the way the registrar and the consultant treated me on that day.
I guess that was the day I learnt so much about myself and the reality of this life. I know we were taught about looking after ourselves in third year HIC. I never really make any big deals out of that because I thought I would be alright until this very day. I never thought I would use any of the advises that my HIC tutor gave us last year. I realised that in fourth year, interactions with other people plays a big role in my professional development. As much as I need to know the medical knowledge, I also have to know how to deal with people.
On that day, I found myself really vulnerable to whatever people say about me. I absorbed everything that being said to me, whether it was good or bad, without having any filters to it. As the consequence, I blamed myself for every bad encounters even though I was not necessary at fault. After several times, I was really feeling useless and incompetent at some point because I internalised all these feelings without acknowledging them.
The biggest lesson I learnt from this event was to take time and reflect on my own feelings. Trying to acknowledge the kind of emotions and addressing it would be really helpful in keeping with good mental wellbeing. At times, it is so tempting to just ‘toughen up’ and move on because it has always been the way I deal with my emotions, thanks to my culture I grew up from, and my upbringing. However, I realised it was not the best way to do it.
I am really grateful to have my house officer giving support to me. If not because of him, I would probably will never gain any confidence and trust in myself again. I came out of surgery run a little more heartless than I was at the start of the run, I must say. Perhaps I need that to actually stop caring about what people say about me and start being less hard on my own self.