Reflection: 12 months of change

So today marks the beginning of the Festive Christmas Season. December 1st. The decorations go up in a flurry of mal-coordinated enthusiasm with every colour clash out there hard earned and appreciated for all its glory. So too, goes up the tree which is unceremoniously shrouded in tinsel and ball-balls. All of course to the melodic backdrop of Slade and lest we forget, the first lady of Christmas songs – Maria Carey – the ONLY time of year her song is allowed on repeat. It is quite simply synonymous with Christmas.

Let me try and describe to you the scene from where I sit typing this. I have a mince pie steaming by my side with a glass of mulled wine, a beautiful 6ft Christmas tree with an explosion of coloured tinsel, decorations and lights. But that’s not all, the walls are draped with art covered tinsel and ornaments of polar bears, beaten up and aged Santa Clauses, and reindeer covering every corner of shelf space. Of course, Maria Carey is also playing.

I am bloody lucky. I know that. As I sip the mulled wine and take in the Christmas magic that has unfolded in front of my eyes I smile. I am a junior doctor who has just survived his first 4 months of a surgical rotation and am about to move to Intensive Care for 4 months. I enjoy my job and I am excited to go to work tomorrow. I am eager, switched on and driven at this very moment in time. I have a wonderful house with great people, great friends and a bullet-proof family supporting me. I’ll say it again – bloody lucky. My pressures in medicine are ones that I place on myself. I want to be successful as a doctor. What defines success? For me it boils down to delivering safe and effective care to our patients – AND being happy and healthy myself. The two must go hand in hand if there is longevity in this work.

My mind drifts back to 12 months ago. A 30 year old, dirt poor student living in student accommodation in a box room with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders. Questions circulated my head like vultures on prey – “will I pass medical school finals?”, “will I get accepted into a London hospital or have to move away from family and friends?”, “Will I be able to cut it as a doctor?”, “Will I even enjoy it?”. They plagued me – especially in the thick of night. Life as a medical student was very hard. You are without clear purpose in the hospital setting, merely tagging along to clean whatever snipped of knowledge you could get – while at the same time avoiding looking like an idiot in front of a doctor. It is hard. I sympathise with all medical students and try to be as nice to them as possible when I meet them on the wards (unless they are rude that is – in which case they get nothing from me but a cold shoulder!).

How so much has changed in the last 12 months. Life as a doctor compared to a medical student is so so very different. I am excited for the future. A year ago I was terrified of the future. It is amazing how time heals, moulds and shapes our hopes, expectations and worries.

Now I started this reflection by saying that I know I have it good currently. I think it is important I know that for another reason other than to put a smile on my face. Not everyone will have a nice Christmas. People will be homeless, scared, lonely, abused and grieving. For them Christmas will be an anchor on these painful emotions that will drop every time around this time of year. I can’t solve all the problems – none of us can. However, as Mother Theresa said [paraphrased] – “start with the person nearest to you, and don’t worry about numbers.” If I can do that, it may help someone. If we all do it, it can help a lot. Be kind to people this Christmas period – it costs nothing but is invaluable.

Right, it’s time for a Christmas movie. Of course, it has to be LOVE ACTUALLY…

Dr Nick

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