Looking back at the 25-year-old me, freshly graduated, with her one-way ticket in her hands, crossing the security area not looking back at her parents, blinded by the courage and hope of “following her dream” – little did she know that that was when the actual hardship was about to start, but also the thrill of living her dream one day at a time.
After about five months of clinical attachment (a period of voluntary shadowing, not paid of course most of the time, in which you try to get to know the system, but you also try to sort out your paperwork, get our registration, apply for a job anywhere in the UK, have your interview, sort out the paperwork for the job, your NIN, and many more) I was finally starting to work as an FY1. I remember being taken to the Doctors’ Mess at lunchtime by Tony (the F1 guide through what was going to be my life for the next four months) and being introduced to all the junior doctors that were there. I was greeted cheerfully and my nervousness faded away slowly. Until my first day of work – I was working in breast surgery, so: my first ward round, my first “scrubbing in”, my first pre-admission clinics, my first on-calls, and first nights – things that seem childish and naive now, but that were significant challenges at the time. Seeing my name at the top of a note entry, and then my signature at the end – a minute thing, but I had been fighting and hoping for it for five months (and 6 years of medical school).
My first CBD, DOPS (I had no clue what they meant, I was working as a LAS, and I had to struggle to find paper forms to fill these out), my first… impossibility to get compassionate leave – miles away from my family that was crumbling, I was allowed to leave work for a few hours to cry in silence. I would’ve needed 3 days of compassionate leave (was not going to happen) to make it to the funeral, so I continued working, doing my weekend on-call like nothing had happened, unable to call my family either due to time differences (but we all knew that neither of us was sleeping).
Very important – I learned to love a medical system (did not know that you could even do that), I learned what it feels like to have a medical system that is loved by everyone, I started fighting for it, as it was my home and my family.
I used to write key notes on my clerking papers to not forget what to ask, I used to write while talking to the patient, I used to go back three times to ask more, I used to spill so many awkward words, but my patient, my team, my flat mates – everyone was so supportive and encouraging. My accent has definitely changed (I was told that I barely have one *happy*), the speed of my speech, my lexicon, my overall communication skills, they all have improved, but they still require a significant amount of effort in the background. I am compared to my English peers, which makes it difficult and painful, I am still more tired than everyone else, medical terms and medicine still don’t come that easy when it comes to areas that I am not used to (still need to think in Romanian for those).
However, I know where I started; I know where I need to be, so I am growing one baby step at a time against my limits.