My NHS lifelines: all the things that helped me carry on
Hi, I am Indrani, an IMG from India and an A&E SHO in London. In today's blog, I would like to share 10 things that made my NHS journey a little less taxing and a little more gratifying.
It is a well-known fact that leaving the comfort of your home and pursuing your dream in a foreign country is pretty challenging, for obvious reasons. Add to that some anxiety, some worldly pressure and circumstantial hardships and you’ll have yourself a heady cocktail of stress. As intimidating as it is to get through PLAB, search for a job and then settle in to it, it can still be made easier with some helpful lifehacks.
1. Patience & Acceptance
Like everything else, passing your exams and starting work in the UK is a process, so treat it as one. Wishing everything happens at the snap of a finger is going to weigh you done. You will need to prepare, wait, chase and then wait some more. You might get a much later date for your exam, there might be a glitch in your GMC registration or you might take months to get your first job. Be patient, with the system and yourself. Like the popular meme on ‘wait faster’, we can appreciate that sometimes all you can do is relax and let things happen. So just calm down.
2. Kindness towards yourself and others
Yes, we want to be competent and we want things to come to us naturally, yet we cannot treat ourselves unkindly. Because that will just lead to excess pressure and zero output. Give yourself time to understand how things work, how people communicate, and what the British culture is about. A few mistakes here and there should not be taken to heart. And as we learn to be kind to ourselves, so shall we reflect it outwards for any unkind behaviour will be met with snide remarks at the least and complications at the worst. If you form a friendly partnership with the nursing staff and other allied health professionals, believe me you, your life will be so much more supported. Because once they trust you to be genuine, they’ll go out of their way to help you.
3. Greeting and knowing names
I have witnessed first-hand the difference in the behaviours of people when you address them by their name at work. If you do not put thought into remembering their names why would they help you with difficult cannulations or give you a hand when you are stuck. People feel seen when called by their names as opposed to feeling like an unworthy part of the team you do not have time to acknowledge. Here’s my secret tip, look at their name badge and call them by their name, even if you don’t know them and see how they react to you. You’ll thank me later 😉
4. Organizing & planning
How does one clean, cook, do the laundry, manage bills, remember to pay rent, keep in touch with family, take care of yourself and then go to work and remember 101 things that need to be done for each patient? The solution is being organized. In the hospital, we make job lists after ward rounds to be efficient. I think this has helped me in my personal life as well. The more you write down and plan, the more space you’ll have in your head. I have a book in which I have basically broken down each task. For example, getting a driving licence. You need to first apply for your provisional licence, pass your theory test, take driving lessons, pass the practical test and then you get your driving licence. Writing this process down enables me to get things done without stressing about it.
5. Self-care, now a cliché but essential
We often get entangled in the web of small and big tasks of daily life and the feeling of not reaching your goal soon enough which can cause burnout. It is so so important to remember to take care of yourself first. Taking a stroll in the park, meeting a friend, going to the gym or sitting idle for some time, these things will give you the strength and good health, mental and physical, to carry on. Because in the end, life is not about how soon you race to the finish line, it's about the experiences you’ve had, the learnings you’ve gathered and the quality of your life. I personally love looking at the beautiful trees and the sky when out for a walk.
6. Ask, ask, ask!
In my first month in the UK, one day I was given the task of discharging someone with appropriate painkillers. I spent half a day figuring out what to give, and asked the pharmacist spoke with the patient. And later the pain team stepped in to complete the task as was appropriate. Had I known about the existence of such a team, I would have done things differently. Hence always ask people when uncertain. People who have been there longer know how the system works, the different pathways and protocols and where to look for the correct information. They will guide you which will help you get the job done much quicker.
7. Learning is everywhere
When you arrive from a foreign country to a new system and culture, there is much to learn. But I assure you that if you embrace learning, you will definitely prosper in every way. Learn from the nurses, the managers, your seniors, of course, and your colleagues who know things you don’t. And you always have useful apps and guidelines to save you. Learn about the culture to facilitate easy communication, learn how to be a safe doctor to prevent medicolegal consequences, and learn how to learn better even for your exams, courses and projects. Because when you replace the thought ‘I have no clue what to do’ with ‘Okay, let’s find out more so that next time it's easier’, you feel the calm wash over you.
Relationships are the basis of our society. They undeniably affect your personal and professional lives. Maintaining good relationships at work will not only make your working environment healthy but also give you access to insider information about minute details helpful for career progression. Say your colleague tells you about a conference you didn’t know about, you attend the event and make more professional relationships. That is going to connect you to the best people in your target speciality, know the pioneers and secure opportunities to be part of audits, research and committees.
9. Be thoughtful
Whether it is swapping a duty because your colleague desperately wants an off on a specific day or bringing cookies for the staff, being generous and thoughtful is always valued. People will remember the times you made them feel good, helped them out of a pickle and cared for them. It will provide a good foundation for a long-term association and you never know, down the line, who will lend a helping hand or give a good reference for you. A tip for you: always buy some cookies and chocolates for your ward staff and managers for Christmas. They’ll appreciate it.
10. Enjoy your journey. Explore!
Having said all this, just go with the flow, and enjoy your journey. Be amused by the stupid little things you do, explore this new land you have stepped into, get to know about other cultures and never compare your journey with others. NEVER. It is toxic and nerve-wracking. Go at your own pace towards your self-determined goals and it will be fine. Laugh a little, cry a little but move on.
If you have any questions about your NHS start, I would be happy to answer them at trewlink.com.
You’ve got this!
Sending warm wishes, prosperity and love 😊
Written by Indrani
Edited by Julia