I was trying to explain what I do to a new friend (not another medic).
I ended up describing myself as being a split personality: PhD student on Mondays & Tuesdays; NHS trainee Wednesday to Friday; and a variable mixture of the two of a weekend. (The reality of course is that it’s much closer to three jobs, because of all the other research stuff. And the admin, and emails, but I was trying to keep it simple… Supposedly, there’s a personal life in there too. Somewhere…)
This is how I’ve always approached it: two (or more) separate parts to my life and work. Separate jobs lists. Separate timetabling. Separate persona…Basically, trying to live separate lives within my one, over-crowded life. I like the sense of identity I get from being this different people (I love being part of the NHS, being part of this amazing organisation where thousands of people come together to care for someone; being that tiny cog in a big wheel)
One of the things I’ve really struggled with is trying to be all of these things, and deal with them separately. When I’m doing one or the other, I’m fine: I can latch on to that identity. I can be the paeds SHO (except that now I have to try and be the reg!); I can be the researcher or the student; but swapping from one to another is hard. Before, I worked in blocks: 6 months of research before going back into full-time clinical. Maybe the odd locum shift now and then to keep my hand in, but nothing with continuity. I could just go in, do my job, and leave. Except… except I hate working like that. That’s not why I went into medicine; it’s definitely not why I became a paediatrician. So, I throw myself into my research.
And when I’m on a clinical block, I throw myself into my “proper” job: being a doctor.
Underneath it all I’ve realised: I’m a paediatrician. That’s what makes my heart sing. It’s the moment when a child’s wheeze is clear enough that they run around the playroom; it’s when your lethargic patient wakes up enough to try and kick you while you do their bloods; it’s when your head is splitting because you’ve done a 12 hour shift with no food or drink and the sound of a child singing the same song over and over and over in the playroom sounds like music (Slight digression: Sir Thomas Beecham – I think – on marching bands: “All very well in their place, which is 5 miles away and marching in the opposite direction”. I feel some sympathy with this, especially when the migraines kick in).
I’ve been trying to be an academic. And I’ve been trying to be a paediatrician. And trying to be both separately is tearing me apart.
Can I be both? or do I have to choose? or do I just keep going and hope I learn how to make it a little easier and still get through to a PhD and CCT