This blog was originally called "ThingsTheyNeverTeachYou.com"
Even though the name was abandoned, the idea stuck. My blog was always about sharing my experiences and giving advice. So after 5 years of medical school and just over 10 years of being a doctor, here are the top things that I never learned as a med student.
Now even though these tips are geared at those in the medical field, they can be applied to almost any situation so keep reading!
Thongs are great for that sleek bodycon dress or those perfect white slacks but they are NOT meant for prolonged wear like a long-haul flight or dinner at your in-laws.
For those of you who don't know, a doctor's call can run from 12-32 hours. Sometimes we work for 32 hours or more (and people have to nerve to ask why I am cranky).
Sometimes, at hour 20, you're wearing the clothes that you came to work in.
Calls get busy and you may not get to change or shower at a time you'd like to.
And although you might make 8 hours in a thong or even 10...
Anything past that and you are asking for trouble.
There is nothing more uncomfortable than having a strip of material stuck up your butt for more than 8 hours while you run around a hospital.
Trust me on this...
Save your comfy undies for those call days, VPLs be damned.
Picture it: September 2006, 4am, on call room.
I had fallen asleep after eating garlic bread and woke up with the breath of a mummy.
No biggie... I will just brush. my. teeth.
I had no toothpaste.
Everyone was asleep and I really had to get my day started.
So I brushed my teeth with soap.
Soap. Does. Not. Taste. Good.
Neither does it kill garlic breath.
Let just say it wasn't the morning I had planned.
So whether you are on call or travelling, pack an extra toothpaste (and toothbrush, somehow mine always ends up in the sink or toilet). You may need it.
We've already established how busy a doctor's day can get.
Even when you're not on call, things can get pretty rough, which leads to skipped meals and junk food.
I remember as an intern on obstetrics, the only thing I had to eat in 8 hours was a candy bar.
You never want to meet hungry (or hangry) Petra.
So I try to carry a healthy snack that I can have on the go like an apple or a sandwich bag with grapes.
It's a lot healthier than a candy bar and there isn't that big "sugar crash" afterwards that makes you feel like death.
Some days at work can drag on and on and on...
And you may want to de-stress by doing some light shopping.
Don't. Do. It.
There will be all these wonderful things that you know you don't need but you'll try to justify by saying, "Fudge it. I work hard. I deserve this!"
Again, don't do it.
Not even the supermarket isn't safe.
You'll end up with a toaster that broils an egg that you will never use and a case of carbonated coconut water that tastes like vomit (even though you live on a tropical island where fresh coconut water is abundant).
Wait a day or two or try checking your bank account first.
Although we be cute, we ain't rich...
As an intern, I read every single bit of financial advice I could find on the internet and started making investments. It's the best move I have ever made.
No one ever taught me this, I did it on my own.
Sure, I have made mistakes along the way: went on spending sprees, made bad investments, travelled without a budget, ran up credit card debt.
But I have also saved for my retirement, paid off my student loan and car loan and can enjoy some of the returns of the investments that I made back then.
I still have a long way to go but it would be so much harder if I only started to invest now.
If you're not financially savvy, find a professional to help (preferably not one associated with an particular bank or insurance company) and read around the advice they give you.
I like Investopedia because it explains things in simple terms that I can understand but there are tons of other sites out there that you can use.
In my country, we have a thing called "Professional Courtesy" where doctors don't charge other medical professionals or they give discounts for medical services.
It's not across the board but most doctors adhere to this "rule".
As a result, a lot of doctors, especially younger ones, do not have medical insurance.
One would think that working with sick people all day would put things on perspective.
Some doctors never think that they will ever get sick. Or need major surgery. And when they do, they have to pay out of pocket for care that could easily be covered by medical insurance.
A medical degree does not bestow a lifetime of health or immortality! Those sleepless nights and stressful days will add up.
This applies even if you aren't a doctor, you won't be young forever.
You would be surprised how many doctors smoke, drink alcohol and eat badly.
These bad habits are used as coping strategies and bad habits are hard to break.
So, form good habits early in your career
Find a hobby that you enjoy.
Eat more fish and less fatty meats.
Keep away from fast food.
You know, all this things you were taught in medical school?
Don't just advise your patients. Practice what you preach.
And you may berated for them.
But that's life.
Every time my interns slip up I always remind them:
"A bad doctor isn't one who doesn't make mistakes. A bad doctor is one who doesn't learn from their mistakes." Petra C.
I keep saying it over and over on this blog: DOCTORS ARE HUMAN TOO.
So are lawyers, janitors, bus drivers and teachers.
No human is perfect.
Give yourself a break.
I may not be able to climb walls or shoot webs from my hands but I sure a hell possess a spidey sense that has "never put me wrong yet".
It's more than just guessing. Yes, good medicine is evidence-based but listen when than little voice tells you to turn around and go back or that you're missing something important.
You won't regret it.
No one ever tells you this.
You are expected to get through medical school, internship, residency and fellowship without submitting to your emotions.
Crying is for losers.
Suck it up.
You will cry.
During my internship, while on call for obstetrics (I really hated this rotation), I leaned against a wall on the corridor and balled my eyes out.
I was running around for hours, my senior kept shouting at me and I hadn't eaten a thing all day.
As a resident, one of my young patients died and I had to break the news to the family. Afterwards I sat under a table and silently sobbed because I didn't want my interns see or hear me crying.
This was a reality that medical school never prepared me for.
That's why this is my number 1 point.
You. Will. Cry.
Your heart will break.
Your stomach will hurt.
Your head will feel as though it will explode.
But crying will not make you weak.
Quite the opposite: you will grow stronger with each teardrop you shed.
I hope that you enjoyed this post. If there are any tips that you wish to share, leave a comment below or drop me a line!