It was around 3am on night shift when I decided to take the job.
It had been yet another busy shift, with the kind of presentations that make your heart sink. I had missed another family engagement to be here, and I had another supermarket frozen meal in the fridge waiting for me – if I ever got a chance to eat it.
I remember feeling completely disillusioned with medicine. Is this it? Is this what all those years of study gets you? A lonely frozen meal shovelled into your face in between demanding patients?
Suddenly, taking a job working in the Pacific islands seemed like the obvious choice.
Six months down the track, as I walk home from another fascinating day at the National Referral Hospital in the Solomon Islands, I couldn’t feel more different from that disgruntled registrar I used to be. Working with a local team, who work tirelessly in a low resource setting, has been inspirational and grounding. Not only is it impressive to see a team that works so hard without complaining, but there is a real culture of respect in the workplace that I have learnt a lot from. Add to that the interesting and varied pathology that finds its way through the door each day! Turns out, I do like medicine. It just took stepping away from the daily grind to remember this.
We are getting better at talking about burnout in the health care profession, but that doesn’t mean we are getting better at recognising it in ourselves. For me, the process was slow and insidious. It crept up on me without me noticing, and it is only now that I am rejuvenated that I can recognise the signs in myself. In my opinion, taking time to follow your interests is not wasted time. If it makes you a better and happier person, it makes you a better doctor.
**Volunteer registrar positions at the National Referral Hospital of the Solomon Islands are supported by the Australian Volunteer Program, funded by the Australian Government. Positions are available in Emergency Medicine, Paediatrics, O&G and internal medicine. Contact AVP for more information.**