No sooner have I recovered from the URTI from hell (that's 'Upper Respiratory Tract Infection' for all you non-medicos), here comes the gastroenteritis.
The plague never ends.
The good news is that I'm currently rostered on 4 days off after a 6-day stretch.
The bad news is that I'm meant to be attending classes for these next 4 days, before going back to work on a 10-day stretch.
The bottom line is... I'm far too busy to be unwell!!!
But it is how it is. Willing myself not to fall sick does not unfortunately make it so.
Despite all my efforts with hand hygiene, protective gloves and face masks, the bugs still get me. Partly due to my crappy immune system, partly due to the sheer volume of exposure.
And, yet... I doubt it's just me, but it's incredibly hard to take sick days when you're a doctor. Even when you're entitled to it; even when you need it; even when it's the right thing to do. It's really hard.
For starters, sick or not, if you don't show up to work, there's no one to do your job. Guess what happens then? Your colleagues are asked to not only manage their unmanageable workload, but also yours as well.
Another side of it is, nobody really cares about doctors being unwell. Especially other doctors. They just want you to be at work because hey, they're also sick and they're at work! Why shouldn't you be?
In any other profession, you'd call that sadistic. In medicine though, it's just the culture.
Puking your guts out? Take a chill pill and some metoclopramide. Bloody diarrhoea? Here's a cup of concrete, you'll be alright. (Disclaimer: That was sarcasm, not a prescription...)
We all know the rules with gastro. If a hospital worker gets gastro, they're meant to stay home until 48-hours post the last episode to minimise the risk of transmission to others (colleagues and patients alike).
Realistically though, I know a doctor who once had an acute gastro attack on his shift and rightfully informed the senior doctor of this. The senior doctor then said, 'No big deal. Just push on, it's all good.'
You might be thinking, 'I'm sorry, but I don't think it's right for doctors to be treating patient when they're sick, particularly not when they're infectious.'
My response to that is, 'Congratulations! Right answer. And while I whole heartedly agree with you, medicine can be a really cruel and thoughtless profession sometimes.'
I find this particularly true when it concerns the intraprofessional expectations of fellow doctors.
A nurse once said to me, 'Medicine is the only profession I know of where they eat their young.'
Young or old, I think doctors do tend to have very little compassion for other doctors. And that's a terrible shame.
According to Beyond Blue's 2013 'National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students', 40% of medical professionals perceived their fellow doctors to be less competent if they have had a history of mental illness and 59% felt that being a patient results in embarrassment for the doctor. Sad to say, stigma within the medical profession is alive and well.
If you've ever wondered why there are so many doctors out there who seem tactless and uncaring and appear to lack compassion, it's because to a certain extent, the profession breeds them. The perception is that it's the 'tough' doctors that survive the decades of rigorous training, ragging and gruelling hours. The profession prides itself on being resilient; on rising above the decades of physical, mental and emotional torture and abuse that is perceived to only make us stronger.
And often it does. But amidst all the success stories, you can't look away from the other side of the truth.
We don't all escape the trauma of self-neglect unscathed.