So in December 2015 something kind of a big deal happened. My two years of internship came to an end… Can I get a hell yes! Given the fact that it was the most grueling and intense two years of my life, I felt like it deserved a blog post all of its own.
Medicine in South Africa consists of six years of studying, two years of internship and then a year of community service. During internship you work in a government hospital, where you rotate through the various departments working for two to four months in each. It is a compulsory part of our training and you can’t practice medicine without it. After completing the two years of internship you get unleashed into the big bad world and it’s all up to you from there.
I did my internship at a medium-sized, crazy busy hospital in Gauteng. I remember that first day of work so clearly. I felt sick to my stomach with nerves, and was certain I would know absolutely nothing. But despite the nerves I was also so excited! I was thrilled at the prospect of no more studying and getting my first salary. Said excitement probably lasted up until I did my first 28 hour call in orthopaedics. Nothing kills your joy quite like no sleep, sore feet and scrubs covered in Plaster of Paris.
I was disappointed to find that, despite the fact that I no longer had to spend every waking moment studying and I did indeed have a wonderful new bank balance, I did not love my new job. I did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I got home every day, feeling like I had done a great job at saving the world and changing people’s lives. I felt drained and disappointed and, to be honest, pretty unfulfilled. I was filled with doubt. Is this what the rest of my working life is going to be like? It was quite a disconcerting thought that I had spent six years of my life working towards this, and it wasn’t quite what I had expected.
I think that was the problem though. I had entered internship with unrealistic expectations about how amazing it was going to be. I was incredibly naive and optimistic and regardless of whether I had gone into medicine or opened my own cupcake shop I think I would have had the same feelings. I suppose you never really know what a job will be like until you actually start working in it, and at 18 when I embarked on this journey I truly had no clue what the working world was really about.
So after the initial highs and lows, I settled into the new job. I had grasped what was expected of me, and like the A-type personality that I am did my best to do my best. I got used to surviving on just a few hours of sleep. I stopped eating lunch because there wasn’t time to take it, and got used to the constant gnaw of hunger and my now loose-fitting scrubs. I got used to patients shouting at me, and got used to the guilt that goes with shouting back at patients (not really). I got used to my job. And as I got used to it I stopped hating it so much. Importantly, I think I also learned to accept that it’s alright for me to not be completely in love with my job. I just had to make the best out of the situation I was in.
I know I’m painting a pretty dreary picture over here. But hear me out. Internship was without a doubt the most difficult and challenging time of my life. And I know for many of my friends they would say the same. However, when I look back on those two years of craziness, I actually get this warm fuzzy feeling. Not because I think I had done a great job at saving the world and changing people’s lives ( although maybe somewhere along the line I did) but because, at the end of it, it wasn’t that bad. I made some really good friends who got me through some of the worst days. I had great teachers who were genuinely interested in making me a better doctor. And I’m damn proud of myself that I got through internship mostly intact.
So if you’re currently going through internship, hang in there. You’ll be OK ❤
Thanks for stopping by,