From listening to suicidal patients to looking after the sickest children in the UK, junior doctors are the backbone of the NHS
I am a 45-year-old mother of four – my youngest has cystic fibrosis. I graduated from medical school in 2010 – since then I’ve had two children in my 40s – and am currently an anaesthetics trainee with at least six years of training left. I live in Bristol and commute daily to Abergavenny in Wales, which is 75 minutes each way. Every day sees me getting up at 5.45am to get the children ready. I start work at 7.45am by seeing patients due to have an operation that day. I work supervised by a consultant, putting patients under anaesthetic and managing their airway and vitals while they are asleep. I also provide on-call services, seeing the sickest patients in the hospital. I admit them to the intensive care unit, provide pain relief, attend cardiac arrests and much more.
No one understands the level of responsibility junior doctors have; we are the backbone of doctors, providing care 24/7. Once I was managing five critically unwell patients in resus overnight as an acute medicine doctor. I needed to make quick life or death decisions, stay calm and focused in the middle of the night.
We sacrifice family time and our own welfare to care for others. In addition, we must work in our own time on mandatory exams, courses, publications, audits and much more. Though I work in Wales, which has rejected the junior doctors’ contract, my 43-year-old junior doctor husband works in England. The proposed pay cut means that one or both of us may be forced to find different work to pay the bills. Our family debt exceeds £80,000. The future looks very bleak indeed and I’m worried.
Every time I leave my children and go six days without seeing my husband or older daughters, or when I miss school events and find providing care for my child with cystic fibrosis a challenge, I consider leaving the medical profession. I care for patients sometimes at the expense of my family and that saddens me. This is why we cannot be pushed any further, it is not worth the cost. To say we lack vocation, altruism and professionalism is a deep and painful insult.
Sethina Watson, CT2 ACCS anaesthetics trainee, Wales
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Filed under: NHS, dedication, Junior doctors, NHS, responsibility