House officer jobs

The adenoids are bleeding a bit. The patient has just had her tonsils out and the surgeon is trying to stem the ooze. He thinks it is the suctioning that caused the trauma as he wasn’t operating on the adenoids. He points to his junior and says “it is all his fault”, jokingly. “Of course, that’s what they are here for (To take the blame), Isn’t it?”, I shrug my shoulders in agreement. Our next challenge has been set. Anecdotes from our trainee postings. I don’t remember much. When the girls were reminiscing about our hostel days the other day, I struggled to remember. Beena nicking the watchman’s bicycle to go for a spin with Rafia riding pillion. Rafia’s brother turns up and they both crash land in front of him in the panic. We did have fun. Did the fun extend to when we started work? I dig deep into my memory bank. 

During our houseofficer stint the jarring image for me was rummaging around in the steriliser looking for the sharpest needle. The house officers had to give the daily intramuscular injections. To make injections painless we had to fight for needles with pointed ends. We gave the injection, washed the needle, deposited it in the steriliser, counted the minutes, stood there guarding the needle and sometimes took it out before it was ready if we lost patience. Even a slightest curvature at the tip is enough to scrape tissues as you pull it out after the injection. Boiling and reusing needles, I wonder what my juniors will make of it if I told them this tale. 

I can think of only unpleasant hospital house officer stories. A middle aged lady came in to casualty one afternoon complaining of difficulty breathing. It was lunchtime and I didn’t know what to do. I decided to deal with her after my break. By the time I got back she was dead. How could she have died this quickly, she didn’t look that desperately ill to me. Possibly angioedema or anaphylaxis, one of my seniors diagnosed. In those days nothing I would have done could have saved her life  but still a stark reminder that breaks are a luxury that we doctors cannot afford in these situations. The patient should have come first, I didn’t know any better. Even now with all our modern gadgets to secure the airway, deaths still happen in these circumstances but an image I have difficulty erasing. 

After my house officer jobs ended I looked around for a junior doctor post near home. My uncle was R. Shanker’s nephew. Surely he could pull some strings and get me a job at the hospital named after his dad’s younger brother. There is a first and last time for everything. And for me that was the first and last time I ever tried using influence to gain a position. They didn’t want me. I still needed a job and it came sooner than I thought. Whether it was something I wanted was another story. 

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