My day begins slowly. The alarm is set to a gentle piano-based theme to coax me out of my twitching stage IV REM. With a 25hr body clock, I am ill-suited to early mornings. Well, mornings full stop, really. A lark I am not.
My first act is to grunt morning greetings to family members. They aren’t morning people either, their greetings similarly guttural. I then scratch the cat and feed him as otherwise he’d mither endlessly until fed and scratched. A double espresso kickstarts my brain before I slinging some black pudding around the pan with a few mushrooms. I find a pork-based breakfast a balm to my reluctantly waking body.
I’ve always cycled to work; it’s a complete no-brainer as you exercise whilst you commute. On entering the radiology department shortly after 9am, I enter professional mode. Irrespective of my inner mood, I deliberately exude a bright and cheery air. I smile even if I secretly would like slit throats.
How you conduct yourself is crucial, especially as one of the older consultants. It sets the tone for others. Ranting about the iniquities of clinicians and laboriously detailing your burnout helps no one. You feel more miserable and induce the same in others. Smiling, kindness and making light of issues makes you and others feel better about the world.
|The author attempts a smile|
I work in one of the newest hospitals in the country whose light and airy design aids and abets a light and airy mood. With over 50 consultants and 20-odd registrars, we’re also one of the biggest UK radiology departments. But despite our size, we’ve long prided ourselves on being friendly and supportive. Relationships with our clinicians are therefore good. We have their back and they have ours. It is so important in these straitened times that a radiologist can walk down a hospital corridor without the fear of a metaphorical dagger in the back.
Given that my neocortex doesn’t kick in until around 10, I usually start my day with something light requiring only the basal ganglia, like a brace of GP films or some vetting. Once the grey matter is fully firing, I’ll turn to the serious stuff. If it isn’t an MDT day, I have a sweeper role, hunting the murky depths of various worklists, mopping up difficult scans that others have passed over, making sure that studies don’t get forgotten about.
More coffee is required between 11 and 12. A cafetière of good light roast Ethiopian or similar helps punctuate the thoughts and fuel the reports. I usually try and catch a colleague or two, spending 5 or 10 minutes catching up. It’s a vital act. Whether you call it checking in on mental health, in-house CPD, mentoring or just being friendly, it’s an important part of being a good colleague.
Having good colleagues makes a world of difference, highly sustaining at low professional times. We all have low moments. If you haven’t, you will. And your worst low may still be to come. I cannot over estimate the importance of being a good colleague. Especially when you’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I try to be that wise and calm senior colleague, alert to a struggling colleague.
Lunch is a protein-heavy salad. Carbs at lunch is a no-no for me; each slice of bread is like 10mg of diazepam. I often use lunchtime to check the work of our registrars. I make a point of getting to know each registrar rotating through the department. After 18 years, 100s of ex-registrars are all around the UK, many of whom are dear friends. I treat registrars like I treat consultants, checking on them regularly, particularly at difficult times. The more registrars you have, the more consultant trainers should think pastorally. Otherwise you risk them suffering in silence, their distress unnoticed and unalleviated.
My afternoons vary, sometimes more of the same. Monday is PETCT, Thursday is ultrasound and Friday afternoons is “McCoubrie Club” where I mould the delicate minds of our first years, inculcating good habits so that they never ever write, “Clinical correlation advised”.
I normally knock off just before 6 and after brisk cycle home, it’s family tea around the table, an episode of something agreeable on the telly then at 9pm, I retire to my study to sweat over volume two of The Rules of Radiology (which should be out in early 2024!).