I am a complex patient. My conditions are rare, complicated and difficult to treat. They don't always respond to treatment as expected and overlap in ways that aren't always clear. Doctors either love me or hate me. I am medical marmite.
There aren't many doctors who specialise in my conditions, resulting in long car journeys to receive treatment. I'm on first name terms with my specialists and we have developed unique relationships as we share this journey together. Despite the closeness I have with my consultants my fondest memories are with the junior doctors who take care of me when I am an inpatient. The experienced junior doctors who know how to survive long exhausting shifts. The confident ones who reassure anxious patients. The newly-qualified, still bursting with excited anticipation yet shaking with nerves. The dedicated who turn up at my bed long after their shift ends. I remember them all.
It is the junior doctor who admits the patient to the ward. He sits listening to my long and complicated history trying to make sense of my body. As my veins collapse again while he takes blood I tell him not to give up, to have one more go. It takes double the allocated time to admit me and he is now running behind. He will spend the rest of his shift trying to catch up but he doesn't blame me. He is keen to learn about my conditions so that he is better prepared for his next medical marmite.
The marmite/junior doctor relationship is mutual. Junior doctors teach the complex patient how to survive the system. We have to be knowledgeable about our conditions so that we can help doctors to provide the appropriate care. They encourage us to be assertive and say no to treatment we know will cause us harm. They teach us how to communicate with doctors so we can work together. Without junior doctors we would not develop the skills needed to navigate the unique doctor/patient relationship. In return, the complex patient helps the junior doctor to think outside the box. We teach them that medical zebras do exist and that medicine doesn't always follow the rules. Because of us they are diagnosing others sooner. They learn that sometimes patients do know best and that a successful outcome can result from a doctor admitting they do not have the answers.
I value junior doctors because they play such an important role in my life. Without them I would not be here today.
I value the junior doctor who waited for my test results four hours after his shift ended on Christmas eve. He wanted to ensure I was discharged that night. Because he put me before his family I got to spend Christmas at home.
I value the junior doctor who gave up his lunch so he could come and learn about my condition. He heard there was a patient with my disorder in the hospital so he searched the wards for me. He spent an hour at my bedside asking questions and scribbling down notes. Once he'd filled his notebook he asked if it was OK to return another day. Because of him someone else may not have to wait nearly thirty years for a diagnosis.
I value the junior doctor who spent an afternoon searching the hospital for a redundant IV pole. Exhausted after a long shift she wheeled in a squeaky stand covered in 'out of service' tape. Because of her, leaving hospital with my new feeding tube was easier. I was able to move about my home freely and was not confined to my bed.
I value every junior doctor who has played a part in my journey. Complex conditions are difficult to live with. Patients can develop trust issues with doctors and we can easily lose our voice. Hospitals become our second home and our life can change in an instant. Junior doctors teach us skills we cannot learn ourselves. They laugh with us and cry with us. They become our closest ally when we are facing our hardest battles.
To every junior doctor fighting for recognition, I value you.
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