My current placement is really laid back. It feels weird adjusting to a slower pace but now I see it as a rest period between my last placement and the next one. I do feel guilty though, watching the other F1s running about trying to tend to several things at once. I try help out whenever I can.
I have a couple of friends who are on medical placements right now and they're finding it difficult. It can be difficult to adjust to a new placement especially if the current one is busier than the first.
A lot of what they feel I could relate to because I felt the same exact way. They often text me randomly in the evenings and have a good rant. Sometimes, I’ll just be scrolling through their messages trying to keep up with the pace. And it’s all the things I used to complain about: the relentless jobs that just keep piling up, the incompetence of the staffing co-ordinator, the demanding patients and seniors. Constantly leaving work late, feeling undervalued and routinely being put into situations you feel uncomfortable in. The underlying expectation to do a lot with a little. I remember it so well.
And I remember wondering why was I struggling so much when everyone else seemed fine. Why was it just me that was sinking and everyone else was paddling through it all? I felt like every time I talked about it, I came across as a whiner. I know I mentioned my whining a few weeks back but in reality, writing it all out helped me. It became one of the ways I coped with everything that was going on.
I’m glad I can be a listening ear to my friends when they’re struggling because I get it. I’ve been there and I hope they know how much I understand their frustration and I’m here for them to vent to. I know how it feels when you try to explain it to someone who is a non-medic. Often, I would tell my mum what kind of day I had, but I would have to stop and explain about how this worked and what a registrar was so she could understand. I couldn’t just tell her what happened, I would have to put everything into context which in itself was also tiring and by the end I don’t think she could ever fully understand, and I couldn’t expect her to. What she could do was listen, which she always did.
I sort of felt the same way when I was telling my friends as well, who were then on non-medical placements. They understood much better than my mum of course. I know they sympathised. But now when they tell me what kind of day they had, I understand it so well. I can feel that pain because I remember it so clearly.
It’s tough to try and explain: but imagine if a friend came to your door and told you yesterday they were buried in snow and they describe how painfully cold the experience was, you could imagine how that felt and sympathise. Imagine if, a few years back, you had a similar experience having fallen through some broken ice, you would feel your friend’s pain much more clearly because you had experienced something similar.
I guess that’s the difference between sympathising and empathising. Another thing that kept me sane was knowing that the placement wasn't going to last forever. Our placements are 4 months long and though it might sound like a long time, it goes past relatively quickly.