I am very thankful to you for reading this and for any advice that can be given.
I graduated from medical school in 2015 but didn't take up my foundation post until August 2016 due to some unfortunate family circumstances.
I was so happy at the prospect of finally starting to practice as a doctor, I loved medical school and truly believed that I could be a good medical practitioner. (I would say that I still do believe this).
I moved to a new city a long way from home to begin my F1 year, as this is where I was placed with my FPAS score.
My first rotation was on a ward with a consultant who pretended I did not exist, refused to talk to me or acknowledge my presence on ward rounds and could not even look at me when I presented cases. I was shouted at in front of nurses and my peers and blamed for ordering tests that I did not order. I struggled to find common ground with the other junior doctors who all formed a tight knit group. It soon became clear that I was on a downhill spiral. I felt I wasn't connecting with any of the other juniors (it was a small hospital, only 20ish F1s) and couldn't talk to my housemates. I spoke with someone overseeing junior doctor wellbeing about the problems I was having with my consultant and the lack of support. I confided that every day I felt like staying on the train past my stop and avoiding work. I was told to 'just discuss it with my consultant'. Of course, to me this was a ridiculous option. Who wants to discuss bullying with their bully?
Anyway, sorry to make this an endless post. Eventually I became very mentally unwell and isolated myself from everyone around. I was always alone. I was barely functioning, not eating and sleeping 1-2 hours per night (if that). I constantly worried about going into work and facing my consultant. On one day, I had to make an early morning presentation in front of her and I vomited several times before work. I became odd, always so unhappy. I visited home as often as possible, but it wasn't enough.
Eventually, I had a full breakdown. I thought about taking my own life so many times but I didn't. Instead, one day I just gave it all in and I didn't come in to work. I ran away from it all. I couldn't take the bullying, the exhaustion and the loneliness.
Fast forward to today. I have had nearly a years worth of counselling and medication. I feel better. However, I am left with a lingering feeling of sadness. I never got to embark on my journey as a practising doctor. I blame myself for not being strong enough at the time to just 'ride the wave', but it felt like an impossible task.
So, my question is this: how difficult would it be to go back into medicine now? I am 2 years post-graduation. I would have to undergo national testing to prove I am competent to even enter the foundation programme. I can't think of a career that would be more fulfilling but I am very scared about going back. I just wanted to reach out and see if anyone knew of friends or colleagues who had come back to medicine after a long time out. I don't know whether to consider it at all. I feel like I am at a crossroads and I am unable to make this decision. Mostly I worry that maybe I am just not enough to handle the environment, if it really is as poorly supported as I have experienced. I guess an online forum seemed as good a place as any to start processing all of these thoughts.
Many thanks in advance.
Do I go back to medicine.....or give it up? Watch
- Thread Starter
- 10-10-2017 00:48
- 10-10-2017 22:38
unfortunately foundation jobs are very s*** and bullying is quite common in some specialties (orthopaedics/surgery). it is a shame if it has caused you to leave and mental health problems were due to it. i went to addenbrookes for my first job. i thought it was a good hospital, but having not been to the hospital before it was a nightmare. it was huge and in my job there was a lot of bullying in my team. everything was blamed on the FY1. i made one mistake on my first on call (my 1st week i was alone on nights) and it was like i did a crime. always anxious to be shouted at any minute. it was very very bad. people would cry. to make matters worse the consultant who bully was both my education and clinical supervisor so you could not get any support! fortunately i left after 4 months and have never set foot in that place again. being an FY1 in such a big place being bullied, no one cares about you, consultants get away with it and they know they can as you can't get rid of a consultant with a substantive post.
however, after such a bad experience, in the DGH it never got that bad. as a locum SHO i was not treated very well but in A&E one day i was shouted at, i left with my feet. later i left general hospitals and have quite a nice career now but hese experiences do shape me, i won't take s*** from a surgeon anymore/ also when i get frustrated with a nurse or a junior doc i make sure i take myself away and come back after 5 minutes, as i still remember what it is like to be on the receiving end !
my suggestion would be to try an go back in a supported way, potentially to a hospital local and to get some regular support. you can perhaps talk to the foundation program to help you as they will preference a local hospital if you have a good reason, get your GP to write a letter etc. some doctors volunteer to be a mentor, which i would recommend, as some career support would be useful. you sounded quite alone but i suspect many of the other juniors were feeling like this. i think about 60% of doctors jobs are not based in general hospital - so do your time and run away. i remember i was always retarded at ABGs and i never got better at it, and it was nice not to have this stress again. another option would be to go part time.
i hope that helps. please don't lose your confidence too much. you managed to finish medical school, and you are a doctor, you just were not supported as you should have been and the circumstances sound quite s***. i hope you go back and good luck xxx
- 10-10-2017 23:19
mate you are a doctor. be proud. you can do it.
- 10-10-2017 23:29
- 11-10-2017 04:10
Reading your story was very sad, I really hope you are doing better now.
At the end of the day, it is up to you what you do, however is there any option of trying to work at a hospital close to home, maybe with family support etc?
Even if it doesn't work out, you could always leave, and at least you'll have tried it to see?
Best of luck with whatever you decide.
- 12-10-2017 00:24
I agree with Chief Wiggum - I really hope you're doing better now. No-one deserves to be treated the way you describe.
First of all: do not blame yourself for not being able to 'ride the wave'; we're not machines, and we need proper support in order to keep going. I'm impressed by your fortitude - it takes a very tough person to be hounded out of a job and still be able to contemplate coming back. You're stronger than you think you are.
I don't really know how the process works when you're coming back into the foundation programme having taken a bit of time out, but I imagine that (besides the aptitude testing) you'll have to resit the SJT? In which case, you may well find yourself with a bit more choice over the deanery you end up in this time. Hopefully being in a fresh place, a bit closer to home, might be what it takes to get you off on the right foot this time.
I can't pretend there are no other consultants that awful, because there are... but they're relatively few and far between. Of the (quick headcount!) ~50 consultants I worked with in FY1 (I worked for some massive departments), there's only one who I would say was a horrible person, and even they weren't as bad as the one you mentioned. Perhaps I got lucky with the consultants I worked with, but I also think you were pretty unlucky to get stuck with that particular person as your supervisor. I would be optimistic that you're not likely to end up in a similar situation when you restart FY1.
As for junior colleagues - I imagine part of the reason that you didn't 'connect' with the other FY1s was that you were miserable for a variety of other reasons (being far from home, being bullied by your consultant), which makes being sociable/forging friendships very difficult. In a better frame of mind, I'm sure you'll find it easier to make friends. Also - it sounds silly, but don't forget that you can make friends with people other than FY1s. My first two jobs were in specialist hospitals; in the first one I was one of only two FY1s, and in the other I was the only FY1, so I didn't have much choice other than to make friends with the SHOs. I wouldn't have made it through FY1 without them, and still spend time with several of them on a monthly basis, despite not being a very outgoing person. So when you start your new job, try to throw yourself into social situations as early as you can - it's so much easier when everyone else is also in the process of making new friends. Be the person who suggests team drinks/food at the end of your first proper week. Be the person who suggests doing something sociable around pay day. If it's viable, offer to have people over for dinner/drinks (in the first rotation, one of the CT1s had people round for homemade food, one of the others had people over for takeaway, and I did a mince pies/mulled wine thing at my house at the end of the job - all of those were really good for team bonding!). It doesn't have to be alcohol-based either - I've also been out for food/been to the cinema/been out for walks/been to the local climbing wall with teams/individual colleagues during the last year. Just be the instigator (even if it doesn't come naturally to you; it definitely doesn't come naturally to me!), and people will tend to be receptive.
In terms of keeping yourself mentally-healthy - as mentioned above, I think if you're a bit closer to home, have a supervisor who isn't completely awful, and manage to make a few social ties, half the battle will already be won. But I would also have a contingency plan if worst comes to the worst and you do feel your mood starts to dip. As soon as you know where you're going to be living, scout around and find yourself a GP so you can sign up as soon as you move to your new address - get that safety net in place as soon as you can. If there's anything you've found helps with your mood (exercise, being outdoors, cinema, cooking, photography, dog-walking.. whatever), do a bit of research and find places to do those things close to where you'll be living, and as soon as you can, try to start setting aside a little bit of time just for you to do those things. And find someone you can talk to in a pinch - doesn't matter if it's family, old friends, TSR - whatever works. There's a great page called 'Tea & Empathy' on Facebook; I find the name kind of cheesy, but it's basically a bunch of doctors/AHPs whose sole aim is to support each other. You're able to post anonymously via the mods if you need to, and it's a really good, practical place to turn to if you need advice, or even if you just need someone to lend an ear and be kind. And if you don't get along well with your supervisor for whatever reason, don't forget if there's another consultant who seems supportive, there's nothing to stop you asking for their help too.
I hope some of the above helps a bit. Best of luck with getting back to it; you've got this!
- 12-10-2017 01:02
i would not sugar coat it, 1 in 50 consultants is your experience, in my experience i commonly foundly the egos of consultants (and nursing managers!) that i could not manage. i think it depends on your personality, some people don't mind being in a 'child' like role with a bossy parent (consultant). other people find this dynamic in their eyes as bullying. some people have a very thick skin and can take anything. others cannot and small errors cause catastrophic reactions.
i was forever resentful as an FY1. some people like to swan around doing stupid tasks like a secretary. it may a girl thing, but the boys are less good at it. i remmeber being asked to do retarded things and i would ask why, and i would get told off and not explained why. unfortunately i also had an opinion, which was not accepted as an FY1! i remember my SPR said "surgery is like the army, you do what your boss tells you without questions". so in the end i shut up and did my time. i being very resentful filling in blood results in a book, or putting them in a list and printing them, which i thought was a horrendous waste of time. and my god if the results weren't in the book - you would get shouted at even if you weren't the one doing it. also i used to get annoyed when people wanted everything to happen straight away, when most of things are not in your control. ward reviews. scans. and when they didn't happen it was our fault - as they could magically get tests straight away.
but i think this is a problem in a big hospital. in a smaller hospital, there were some nice things and it was a bit more teamy. i know the OP had a bad experience, but i felt like this in big london / teaching hospitals. in DGH you used to go to speak to the cardio reg, and you would know them like. and they would come because it was upstairs. radiology you used to write on a card and wait 3 days for a scan, and you wouldn't get the abuse as they know there is only 1 CT scan and the consultants know the problem. i remember in one job every friday the consultant used to take everyone and buy lunch, and this happened religiously every week and you have to attend like, sick patients consultant would say can wait. my radiology friend every wednesday was cake day and they used to bring in a cake.
i think, however, the qualities that got me in trouble as an FY1 were quite useful later on. but yes many of us hate it. i did and most doctors don't like foundation at all, which is why everyone takes time out after FY2 and why so many people would NEVER dare to core medical training / be a med reg / paeds reg. having an opinion and questioning (or even not doing stupid processes/stupid forms) have been quite useful later on. also i try to be very patient with people, especially juniors or nurses, as i remember what it is like.
- 12-10-2017 01:53
I'm not intending to sugar coat; yes, that was my experience of FY1. Don't get me wrong - there were other consultants I didn't like particularly well, and those who rubbed me up the wrong way. But only one I would describe as a horrible person, who actually came close to what the OP described.
I'm also not sure whether you meant to suggest it or not, but if it was deliberate, I dislike the implication that if someone manages to get by without too much argument, that they somehow 'don't mind being in a child-like role with a bossy parent' (?!); I think you're right to say it's personality dependent, but there are quite a few options in between 'this doctor is a doormat' and 'that doctor can't manage the egos of others'. I think it probably does help that I was a 30-year-old FY1 instead of a 23-year-old one, and am more than happy to tell someone if I think they've been unnecessarily rude.. I don't put up with that sort of thing outside of work and I don't see why I (or anyone else) should have to put up with it in a professional setting. Maybe that came across in work without me having to say as much, I don't know.
I get the rest of what you've said about FY1, though I'm not completely sure what you mean by 'some people like to swan around doing stupid tasks like a secretary. it may be a girl thing, but the boys are less good at it'. I disliked the job for the same reasons you mention - the menial secretarial stuff, the hero worship of seniors that seems to be expected in some surgical jobs, the requests to carry out impossible tasks by people who know full well that they're asking something impossible. Definitely agree that most people don't enjoy foundation - most people I speak to say that things only get better after FY1. Also agree that the best thing to do with *****y seniors is to remember them as an example of the sort of doctor you're not going to be, when your time as a senior comes.
Maybe it is worse down south, as you say. I did my FY1 in two specialist hospitals and a big teaching hospital up north, and am in another specialist hospital and a DGH for FY2. In my first and third jobs, consultants regularly took us for coffee and cake once or twice a week. In the second job, not so much.. but it was more that they were absent and not very supportive rather than bullying.
- PS Reviewer
- 12-10-2017 16:37
Re: bullying being simply a problem with how people perceive treatment from particular consultants, I do think that actual bullying can be slightly different from that. I was in the situation in one of my last jobs where one of my colleagues was clearly being bullied by one of the consultants, which in turn affected how they were treated by the entire senior department. It was terrible to be sat in handover watching somebody being annihilated, and knowing if I'd made similar small errors (which were in the nature of being in training), that the wrath wouldn't have been so completely disproportionate. It was extremely unpleasant to witness. What made it stand out for me was that it wasn't just that particular consultant's generally bad behaviour, but it was them behaving badly only towards a specific trainee. When I did on-calls with this consultant, I was never once treated like my colleague was.
What you're both discussing above (i.e. an individual trainee's reaction to a consultant's 'style' ) I agree is more of a grey area and you do sometimes get trainees who for whatever reason just rub along the wrong way with a consultant. Often because they are being legitimately treated poorly but take it as a personal offence rather than just realising that consultant treats everybody poorly. Personally I've never been in a situation where I thought somebody was behaving rudely towards me where they didn't in fact behave that way to everybody and so I never bothered to take it to heart and just let it wash over me.
The nastier side is where it's transparently somebody being victimised in a way which has nothing to do with them reacting unusually badly to a consultant, and I think that's not always just to be chalked up to the trainee's personality. I think this is thankfully fairly rare, I've only seen it once whilst working and once from one of the faculty (who was in fact infamously unpleasant) when I was at medical school.
- 13-10-2017 01:16
- 13-10-2017 07:34
I just wanted to chip in that in my foundation years in Peninsula I had 5 jobs I would call fantastic and 1 job I would call average. There are brilliant training hospitals and consultants out there so please don't think a rough ride as an F1 is inevitable.
Sure it's hard work, but I had a brilliant 2 years.