As I introduced the latest batch of interns to the department I thought back to my first few days as a doctor and how I have changed. I qualified in 1997 and I still remember lots of things about my first year. I remember the fear of being on-call, the physical and mental exhaustion that would result in me falling asleep on the toilet, and I remember the colleagues that helped me through it.
Fortunately 100+ hour work weeks are a thing of the past and the introduction of the internet has stopped most of us needing to carry the trusted ‘cheese and onion‘ (the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine) around in our pockets. But I’m sure the trepidation still remains ever present.
I’ve written before about the importance of setting an example to those around us – treating others how we would like to be treated and nowhere is this more apparent in how we act as role models. As a consultant it is easy to forget how you are viewed by those you work with. I have my own set of works standards that I try to live by. They may be very different from those of my colleagues but they boil down to one key concept…Am I the sort of doctor that I would want my family to see? Regardless of speciality, it is a question that we should all stop and reflect upon. Would I be happy to take my children to see ‘Dr Andrew Tagg‘? Could I be confident that he was up to date and knowledgeable? That he was kind and compassionate? That he was respected and treated his team with respect?
I don’t think I can teach the latest group of medical school graduates how to be good interns. I have other friends that have been through the experience more recently than me who can do that. What I hope I can begin to teach them is how to be good doctors. Too often I see doctors of all grades forget the patient behind the disease. We’ve all been guilty of labelling patients by their diagnosis – ‘the chest pain in cubicle 10‘. It is the soft skills, the hidden curriculum, that is not taught in medical school, or beyond, that I want to focus on this year. Whilst clinical knowledge is important, what other skills do you need to be a great doctor?
I was reminded of this whilst listening to on of my favourite non-medical medical podcasts, The Doctor Paradox hosted by Paddy Barrett. If you look back at your career so far, what are you most proud of? Sure, you may have made that one in a million diagnosis, or sunk that ET tube when all around you failed, but I imagine some of you will be proudest of the effect you have had on those around you – creating calm out of chaos, nurturing junior staff. Why wait till your retirement dinner to feel that warm glow when you could start to feel it now? Let’s work on teaching that hidden curriculum…