Since becoming a doctor, I have been made to feel ashamed of my profession.
Simply answering the question on meeting new people; "And what do you do for a living?" Leaves me clammy handed and dry mouthed. Usually my response is a sigh, followed by hesitantly saying;
"I'm a doctor.'
Then I await one of these responses:
"Oh, so you must be really clever?"
"I've forgot my purse, can you buy the next round? You must earn loads"
"Oh Right.....I just have to go speak to..."
"Oh wow, you said your husband's a doctor"
"You look too young to be a doctor"
"But you don't actually have to go into the hospital to be on-call? You just do it from home, right?"
Whilst I don't mind looking at the rash in question, there's nothing like the tumble weed that flows through room when I'm asked my occupation. The ultimate conversation stopper (apart from saying you are the current health secretary in an NHS hospital staff room).
The silence that assumes you're a snob. That your parents are well off and got you this gig. That of course you always know best. That you think you're better than everyone. That you are now difficult to talk to. That you earn loads, in fact, overpaid. That you are lazy, off most weekends, clocking up your golf hours. Thanks for the last one Jeremy Hunt.
And it's normally based on assumptions that have been fed by the media and now even politicians about doctors.
And you know what, I understand where these come from. Historically doctors were made out to be pompous gits. The (mainly male) doctors chased nurses into linen closets (Carry On films), spent their long lunches on the golf courses avoiding home visits (BBC's doctors) and went home to their fat cat mansions with their massive £100K+ pay packet (Daily Mail: Britain's largest fictitious book on public sector workers). Not to mention the blood boiling scenes in Holby City where the doctors egos are so large they can in fact run not one department single handedly but the entire hospital, including such feats performing as C-section surgery, then resuscitating the baby afterwards and of course finishing their shift at a normal working hour in time to the local for a bevvy.
I can only guess that certain politicians frequent watching these programs and then rest their arguments on this.
Yes, they do care about their patients but are finding it increasingly difficult to do with current levels of staffing and funding across the board with the level of demand and consumerism.
And that social awkwardness I experience when telling others my job is just the tip of the iceberg. The 'doctor bashing' has accumulated in a massive backlash from doctors (and other NHS health professionals), finally feeling they can speak out over how they feel the profession has been degraded by some of these spouted lies, twisted statistic and our responses aren't listened to.
Since I entered medicine with my UCAS form 13 years ago, with my standard personal statement fodder of 'to help service peoples needs not wants' and 'for my love of science', the profession has slowly morphed into the 'disrespected profession.' The lepers of the NHS.
I didn't enter medicine to be respected and certainly not revered, but I don't want to be disrespected either, as a doctor or a person. I wouldn't do that to any other profession, so why is it OK to happen to mine?
Partly, I think the public and even colleagues expect us to have an air of wanting to be respected. But there is a misunderstanding of what it means to be respected. We (I) don't want to be put on a pedestal of anything above a normal person, doing a job, like any other. Where as the perception lies in that we MUST be respected and revered. That we think we are something we are not.
Do you know there are very few doctors I have met that are like that fictitious doctor?
Yes, there is the odd one, like in any walk of life or profession, but actually most doctors are pretty humble, average people, paying their bills, caring for their family, welcoming a new baby, having the odd night out, a glass of wine in the evening, watching trash on tele to relax. Just normal folk.
In fact Jeremey Hunt's, ill thought out comments about doctors over the past few months, may have actually done the NHS and the profession a favour. Now, I may be likely in my own bubble here of like minded thinking friends and family, but now doctors, nurses, and everyone who works in the NHS has had the power to fight back at those claims and to show the real truth.
In fact the NHS front line spoke out that this wasn't fair in petitions calling for a vote of no confidence in Mr Hunt (though so far this has fallen on deaf ears, as it appears politicians can pick and chose what they respond to, unlike the rest of working society).
It wasn't fair because it was downright wrong to mislead the public like this. To almost try to evoke some twisted job racism against doctors.
Though my cockles have been warmed by the solidarity shown by all professions in the NHS pulling together against the propaganda against NHS front line staff:
No, they don't get paid shed-loads.
Yes they do routinely work weekends #ImInWorkJeremy (even those £100K+/year consultants, who incidentally, most do NOT get paid that much).
I still, however feel a sense of disappointment that Jeremy Hunt or any politician can seem to 'get away' with just in effect just making things up.
If I possessed those qualities with no ability to reflect and critique myself, no ability to even on occasion admit that I may be wrong, then I would be hauled up in front of the GMC and stripped of my licence.
If a member of the public made a sweeping generalisation about say a race so publicly, then they would be hunted down and brought in front of a court for inciting racism.
If a researcher just made up his conclusions and had his paper published (let's use the example of that Wakefield MMR/Autism study), then surely he would be discredited and lose his job?
But what about an MP? Someone in position of power, someone who should have a responsibility to be trustworthy and who is paid to know the facts? Is it acceptable for people in power to belittle and degrade a profession and try to insight hatred against them?
This is what routinely happens against public sector workers.
Doctors are not the only public sector workers to experience this disrespect stemming from within, from our own government. Take the Police or 'The pigs' they are so respectfully referred to.
Yes, those, people who try to help keep the peace in a civilised society. They catch the baddies and keep you safe - when did we start to refer to them so disrespectfully and it to be acceptable?
What about those teachers with their paid six weeks summer holidays, doing their 9-3.15pm days, they've got it easy right? Those people marking and lesson until 10pm in the evening, even in the school holidays and having to go off sick from work with the stress of Ofsted visits.
But like with all these careers it's a vocation they chose, right?
Of course! So like sitting ducks, fire up you shotgun and stick it to them! Let's degrade them in the public forum, cut their pay, make them work more. Let's exploit them. Let's take advantage of their good nature. After all they are not humans like the rest of us. Right to a family life? Pah, you left that at the door to University.
If you are not a doctor reading this, I ask you to think of what would happen if someone who had never worked in your profession, called you as a whole profession, lazy, money grabbing? Told you condescendingly about your duties to you 'vocation' despite having no experience of how your vocation has changed in a few years. Disregarded you as a person, your home life, your work ethic. Then worked to increase your hours, change your contract, not listen to the insight you have, seek to cut your pay? All while they gain a 11% pay rise and do not have to answer to anyone.
I'm not calling for a load of sympathy or people to flood out en mass (but if you do want to flood out en mass, the 17th October is the date to put in your diary, for the Junior Doctors Protest at Waterloo Place, London) but to be treated like a human like any other. Not a faceless, human-less person. I could be your mother, your brother, you sister, your friend. I'm not asking to be worshipped. I'm asking for basic respect as I would treat anyone.
It's no wonder morale is becoming so low in the NHS. You are doctor-bashed, not listened to, and most of all frightened.
Frightened that your job is going to change, that you won't be able commit the dedication you want to your patients.
Frightened you will be left to cover 100 patients or more by yourself with no extra staff to help you.
Frightened that it's an accident waiting to happen and the GMC are just vying to come down on you like a tonne of bricks.
Frightened that your 'normal hours' are going to change and the safeguards for you and patients on those hours.
Frightened that you won't be able to pay that mortgage or afford (or even find) childcare.
Frightened you'll burn out.
Frightened that you will never get back the human respect you deserve.
Frightened of what is going to happen to the NHS.
If you value your NHS or your public services, even if you don't work in the NHS, I urge you to get behind junior doctors and their contracts because it's not going to indirectly affect you, it will directly affect you and the care you will receive as a patient.