Doctors are a drain on society. Perhaps we are. The social hub of society is ‘The Dinner Party’ and I am certainly a drain at dinner parties. The smart, yet casual, social haunt of anyone with a degree and a job that earns them over 20k. Whilst everyone discusses the latest office gossip and chortles about business meetings that ‘ended with Jerry stood on the table serenading the Princess of Sweden!’ I am there, pale from living a nearly nocturnal life on nights and probably riddled with scurvy having given up all food except for toast from the mess.
‘So how is your job as a DOCTOR?’ ‘Oh perfect I’ve been on-call so managed to hold a wee in for 12 hours and walked around for 4 hours today with an old ladies blood on my face thanks to an overzealous ortho registrar with a saw and an intracapsular NOF! You would think someone would have told me…’ I had them at ‘blood’ and lost them at ‘ortho registrar’. Smug James who works in ‘The City’ has suddenly lost his appetite for the rare steak we are all enjoying and my non-medic friends once again push food round their plates and wonder when I’m next on-call.
We certainly are a drain on ink at the tabloid printers. Tabloid newspapers appear to be the fodder of society. What society grazes on whilst utilising the public transport system. When they have finally run out of stories about Princess Diana and have completed 50 shades of xenophobia we often are allowed our 15 minutes of fame. ‘Doctors More Hated Than Bankers’… apparently. I’m certain I would take this national disgust much better from the padded leather seats of my private jet after back to back meetings in Deutsche Bank’s pools of gold.
Everyone in society also loves a good ‘Doctor Missed My Unpronounceable Eponymous Syndrome’ tale; what failures we are. Between magazines showing hideous scars from botched boob jobs in Bradford to demonic doctors poisoning their lovers we make flashy and disgraceful headlines. Our mumbling faux empathy and fatigued demeanour is no match for the newspapers Tuesday Medical Section or indeed Dr. Google. Dr. Google (although often telling porky pies) gives free, instant, unapologetic answers and never botches a boob job. He certainly is not a drain on society; unlike us.
When society isn’t feeding off news and discussing it over dinner tables they are happily procreating in wholesome homes. Whether in straight marriages or gay partnerships our society is seemingly built upon the notion that we need to be happily cohabiting with a binding legal contract for life; and with child (or many) to be complete. I’m not. In fact doctors are terrors for the dreaded ‘D word’… divorce. I can close my eyes in a busy hospital canteen and decipher immediately which tables are hosting doctors, indeed which species of doctor. ‘We can’t find a weekend in our rotas for the next 8 months where we are both free to get married!’ certainly the medical registrar, ‘my ex-wife is taking our children to Lake Como this summer’ Surgical Consultant, ‘my second ex-wife is taking our children to Lake Como this summer’ Orthopaedic Consultant.
Our hours, exams and terrible dinner party chat make us our own home wreckers. We are contributing to broken Britain through divorce and absent parenting. Our children will act up in class because they are lacking role models, we are never home and when we are we are tired. ‘Hello, this is the scrub sister can I take a message the doctor is scrubbed? Yes. I will tell her. Sorry to interrupt, your son Damian has bitten another child in Primary 4 and then proceeded to eat all the purple crayons in a fit of rage. The school would like you to come in please and take him home.’ ‘Oh bugger, can I get a 4-0 vicryl please and can you call them back please and ask them to call the nanny.’
I have neglected to mention how we drain the foundation of society, the glue holding us all together in the colony and no, it’s not love or a beautiful desire to work symbiotically with one another (you only need to get on the Tube in rush hour to thank God it doesn’t rely on this). It is money. That piece of paper with the queen’s face stamped on is what holds the whole show together. We drain that. Large amounts of societies cement; precious money that could be spent on new roads and more Boris Bikes. I won’t bore with figures and graphs but it costs a small fortune to turn spotty school nerds into brave life savers (or rheumatologists). Once we are trained we need to work somewhere and society pays out even more money for that as well. The NHS is a black hole guzzling society’s cash; it is the Enron of government institutions. It is a sinking ship but we refuse to jump off, we are still playing Rachmaninov in the water logged dining room and rearranging deck chairs. We keep the vortex open and allow the money to fall in.
We really do drain society from a variety of angles. Sometimes, however, I feel that we may redeem ourselves slightly when the tables are turned and society is trying to drain itself. We are there when society is metaphorically circling the drain. Sometimes we act as plugs for society, not just drains. Plugging arteries when society decides to slam their car into a wall at 75 mph. Plugging tears when we give back hope by offering to remove tumours .Plugging fractured hips with cement and prosthesis just so society can walk again. Plugging holes in hearts so younger members of society can grow up, live and dream. Perhaps we are drains on society in general, but for a few hours a day we get to be plugs and for me that’s enough to justify my draining life as a doctor to society.
Heatherwood & Wexham Park Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust