Monday, 30 July 2012

Me and my shadow...

This week is compulsory shadowing week, where we learn how to do the job before we have the terrifying responsibility of doing it. Theoretically, it should reduce the mortality rate on “Black Wednesday” – the first Wednesday of August, when every brand new junior doctor (F1, or foundation year 1 doctor) across the country starts working. Our lack of experience is, apparently, evident in the number of patients who die on those first few days, compared with the rest of the year.

I wasn’t particularly nervous before the start of shadowing week. I feel like I should have been, meeting all those new people, starting a new job, even if the actual responsibility isn’t added in for another week. But I’d had no time for nerves – I was at camp, far too busy having Serious Fun to worry about suddenly being a doctor. For anyone who is likely to be nervous about starting F1, or any other scary job, I’d definitely recommend doing something amazing before starting, partly to take your mind off it, and partly to remind yourself that there are more important things in the world (like campers) than work.

Shadowing week is interesting in that we’re not actually allowed to do anything. Anything that involves procedures, signatures (our own, rather than hassling someone else for one – will make a nice change!), or even almost touching a patient. It’s bizarre, for this one week in which we’re all qualified and about to do the job, we’re allowed to do a lot less than we were a few weeks ago as medical students. We’ve signed to confirm this, but as usual not everybody sticks to it. Some new F1s have a “never mind that” approach. I’m a little more cautious – we’re not allowed to do anything because we’re not insured to, apparently, and wouldn’t necessarily be covered for a needlestick injury. I’d rather not have one of those (touch wood) but if I did, I’d like to be properly covered for it and get the post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP*) as required.

So really nothing much has happened during shadowing week. I’ve learnt a bit and sat through lots of “this is how we do things here” lectures, but I imagine most of the learning will be on the job. Which is a bit terrifying.

* PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is the term for a 28-day supply of anti-retroviral drugs to prevent you contracting HIV if you might have been exposed to it, for example through a needlestick injury. It’s not just for doctors and medical staff, however, anyone who could have been exposed to HIV through unprotected sex (with someone of a high risk group), needle sharing etc, can receive PEP from A&E or some genito-urinary medicine/sexual health departments, if you go there within 72 hours of exposure. It’s an unpleasant 28 days as the drugs have numerous side effects, but it’s better than a life of HIV, even if that does mean a chronic disease rather than a death sentence these days. And it’s only a chronic disease if you know about it – undetected and untreated it could very possibly be a death sentence, so get tested!!

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