Wednesday, 27 July 2011

European 48h laws... and those damn interesting patients!

I worked from 8AM till almost 9:30PM today. This is no rarity. I am tired, and I am beginning to regret certain choices in my life. I fought damn hard to get my life back from the claws of my past; and all I do is work. I don't feel like a hero, or 'special' because I'm the doctor. In reality many patients still can't comprehend the fact that women can be doctors too and call me 'nurse'. I have all respect for nurses, but if I wanted to be a nurse I would have gone to nursing school.

The best one?
Me: Goodmorning mrs Little old Lady, how are you doing today?
LOL: Morning Nurse, I'm fine, actually!
Me: Eh, Doctor...
LOL: Oh, sorry, Doctor. You know, I think it's so great that young women are doctors nowadays! Go Girls! But aren't you too young to be a doctor?
Me: Eh, thanks, and no, I'm the same age as most other graduates!
LOL: but you look so young!
Me: I suppose I'll appreciate that in ten years. Now, have you had any more black stool?
LOL: Not much, Nurse!

I spent the rest of the day talking drugs, infidelity and shit on the gastro/onco ward. Always fun!

Internist nr 1: So, if you were a little Clostridium spore, what would make you think 'Ah, this is great, I'm going to become a bacteria'?
Internist nr 2: Spores don't have brains.

Gastro doc: You have a colitis, but it's not bleeding anymore. We'll observe you for a bit, and if your stool is normal, we'll discharge you on Friday..
Old lady: Ok. So if I make a good poo, I can go home?
Me: Basically, yes...

But seriously. EU regulations state a 48h max work week for doctors, with good reason. I'm tired, and I'm regretting certain life choices, and working 65+h weeks isn't making me love medicine any more. Yesterday I was naughty and went home before 8PM. I paid the price, but I don't regret having time for a DVD. Today I spent the entire day running and talking, and I still had a lot of admin to do at 7:30PM. I went home when the system stopped responding.
Monday I left the hospital at 10:01PM. One of my patients died at 7:15PM. I came home close to tears, not because she died, because that's what cancer patients do. I came home close to tears because all I had time for was a shower and a quick cuddle with my rats... and then sleep and the whole thing would just start over again. I want to go pick up a new rat at the shelter, but I don't have the time for it.

The problem is, roughly, that there aren't enough doctors to take care of the patients in 48h a week. Mind you, I don't even have time for the discharge letters, and meanwhile specialists and secretaries are moaning about unfinished letters. I have no idea when I'm supposed to do them.


  1. I sympathize with you. As a resident in america I work close to 80 hrs a week and this is the norm for most residents here. It is tough on me and my family. There should be reforms in the system but it doesn't appear that there are any forthcoming. I would love a 48 hour or even 65 hour work week at this point.

  2. It's so hard to find the right balance, because there is so much to learn in so little time. I can't learn everything I need to in 48 hours a week unless I extend my residency (and finishing in five years is long enough for me). But I agree that working 65+ hours a week doesn't help a person love medicine at all. The great dilemma of medicine...

  3. I love that you have rats.

    I've noticed how much it has changed in the hospitals I have worked over the last 6-7 years and women doctors now seem to out number the men. Especially the new doctors coming in.