Dr P was a miserable man. i first met him in 2000 when i, as a fresh faced medical student, was spending time on a cardiology ward at one of the london teaching hospitals on placement. he was a registrar (not quite consultant), quiet, not up for any bullshit, happy to have a go at you (quietly) if you didn't know your stuff and seemed ever so world weary for someone who must have been about 34 years old. he was of course fiercely intelligent, hardworking and career minded and even then i knew that he would go far. his long fought after consultant post was surely looming.
last night, 6 years on, i receive a transferred patient from the same cardiology department at the same hospital. as i trudged through the dreary reams of photocopied notes imagine my surprise when i see entries from Dr P. the same concise instructions, the same copperplate handwriting, the same aura of tiredness... and yes still in the same position. STILL a registrar after all these years.
i couldn't believe it. i knew he'd been a reg for at least 4 years when i was a student so to date he must have been in the same position for at least 9 years.
he has been slogging his guts out for so long and has moved very far sideways. he was passionate about his subject and keen to please his bosses (they seemed to love him) and where has it got him? nowhere. what kind of job ensures that you do not progress after 9 years service.
i realised that night (in a fred savage wonder years voiceover moment) that tieing myself to hospital medicine (as i am 95% sure i have) is no guarantee of any progression to becoming a specialist in my field, no guarantee of any ascension to the right of some autonomy to research and practice as an expert. i too may flounder despite having years of experience when i am close to 40, hanging on the crazy whims of my superiors whilst around me the rest of life dessicates into a shrivelled world-prune, PURELY because the NHS has no scope to provide a clear career structure and trajectory. how passionate do you have to be to tolerate that? i have chosen a pathway to specialist medicine. i also appear to have chosen a pathway to (my idea of) hell.
"this year Dr D&C you will be doing a year of nights."
[i am listening to will you still love me tomorrow by the shirelles - i am DJing at a wedding in April and though it might be a good slow dance despite the lyrics]