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Seven kindnesses that got me through my worst shift ever

Last week I experienced one of the busiest days for me as an FY1 so far.

Obviously I have very little to compare it to, but my third night shift was something of a beast for everyone involved. Nurses were still talking about it the next day: the busiest night in a long time, they told me.

I was stressed, tired, hungry, emotional and terrified. I was being bleeped all the time, several times while seeing a patient. I found myself running between wards trying to find what I needed and running between ABG machines on different levels because they don’t all do the tests I needed, praying the blood wouldn’t clot.

When my SHO saw me and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea, I laughed.

So I thought I would shine some light of some of the beauty to come out of one of the worst shifts of my life. These are the moments that will see me through one day to the next.

1 ‘You’re a nice doctor’

When I heard this, I was flattered, but baffled. The patient, who had barely spent five minutes with me, was notoriously difficult to cannulate. She told me that even the anaesthetist struggled the day before and was considering feet or neck.

So I was intrigued enough to ask why my patient thought that I was so nice.

‘You put a pillow under my arm to make me comfortable’, she explained.

It was something so tiny and automatic for me that it barely registered, but to this patient it made a big difference.

2 Bloods that didn’t hurt the patient

At 6am one patient cheered me up after he told me that I didn’t hurt him when I was talking bloods. He was so jolly, chatting away about his family. He had cancer and was in hospital having surgery.

What a positive person, I thought to myself, and what the hell did I have to complain about? Nothing at all.

3 Tea and toast

Thanks to the nurse who cornered me, shoved some tea and toast in my hand and ordered me to sit down immediately and eat. After eight hours of no fluid or nutrition or sitting down, this act of kindness was much appreciated. I went back and gave her a hug the next day.

4 One less job

Thanks to the nurse who called the path lab for me to get them to report blood results immediately when I needed to do 50 other things and she saw that it needed to be done. One less job for me to do.

5 ‘You must be tired’

The patient who I had to wake up from their sleep, who asked me how I was feeling. ‘You must be tired, doc’ – yes, I was, and I wasn’t expecting this act of kindness.

6 Half a chocolate bar

The nurst who went to her bag to get chocolate and the other nurse who shared her grapes who then encouraged me to eat and write at the same time. I managed half a chocolate bar.

7 A telling-off

A nurse gave me a lecture on my need to have a drink of water and go to the toilet (neither of which were happening, either simultaneously or separately). This was advice I needed for the next shift.

Even on the worse days, there is still a lot to be grateful for. We all know about the struggle and we all talk about it (rightly so, we all need a debrief).

But don’t forget to stop, even if it’s just for a second, to appreciate the good too.

And if it’s all going terribly, remember you can always take time off.

Dr Salma Aslam is an FY1 doctor in Bristol