Shadowing a Doctor

July 25, 2013

No matter how much you may have read or heard about it, or how prepared you think you are, the very first time your pager goes off your heart will skip a beat as the realisation sinks in- this is it! That pager vibration is your call to go and finally put into practice everything you’ve learnt in the past few years. Are you ready to handle it?

Before you have even finished treating your first patient, your pager starts beeping again and very soon you are running from one patient to another without time to breathe in between. At the end of the first day you feel like you are going to collapse but you do not have the luxury to do that yet. You still have to find your way home, and then find your way back to the hospital the next day. Can you do it?

Bryant and friends in the surgery department at Iringa regional hospital

If you are working in a hospital, your first few days at work are likely to be unbelievably hectic as you get thrown in at the deep end of the pool and are expected to cope with one medical emergency after another. Here are a few tips that will help you make it through those first few days:

Get Enough Sleep

In the huge adrenalin rush of excitement, it is easy to forget the importance of a good night’s sleep. That is the biggest mistake you can make. Tempting as it may be to party the night away or catch your favourite late night television show, this is not the best way to prepare for the rigorous schedule ahead of you. You know what is the most conducive environment for you when it comes to sleeping so make sure you have prepped your bedroom accordingly. Keep it quiet, keep it dark and keep it comfortable so you know when you wake up, you are rested and ready to face the day – the next few days actually.  

Eat Healthy

You need to eat high-energy foods to keep your energy levels up through what promises to be some hectic days and nights. A few days before you start, go out shopping and stock your refrigerator and pantry with lots of healthy foods. Getting your shopping done beforehand means you do not have to make a desperate trip to the supermarket after an exhausting shift at the hospital or early morning before you start your shift.

Gap medics student George assisting the midwife on placement in Tanzania Make A Checklist

In the first few days, when it is not yet second nature to you to carry around a few tools of the trade, it’s easy to leave something behind. Make a check list and check it before you start your shift. What are the items that should make it on your checklist? Stethoscope, the hospital’s prescribing guide, notebook and pen, cereal bars or any other quick pick-me-up snacks that you can munch on between wards. Nothing is unimportant. If you need it to make it through the day, put it down on the list.

Most importantly of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Whether you are too fatigued to carry on or you just do not know what to do, it is far better to ask for a helping hand rather than make an error in judgement either because you were too tired or you were not sure what to do.