Saturday, April 10, 2010

ENT and a long story, old-timer-style

We have spent this week in ENT. It has been interesting, and the staff are really nice and keen to teach.

This is fortunate, as it isn't really an area that I'm interested in, and I am feeling like I'm disinterested in all things study-related right now. You know how it is - some weeks you feel like hitting the books, other weeks you open a book and close it again and walk away.

I also have a couple of weaknesses in medicine - one is the neck area, the other is phlegm/drool, and ENT is filled to the brim with both things. I haven't actually dry-retched yet, which is nice, and I tend to feel really bad for the patients. Seeing something that you aren't comfortable withon somebody else is nothing compared to having that actually be something that you have to go through yourself.

The nice thing is that I am getting my elective organised. I'm going to do the whole thing in psychiatry, since in the last month or so I have settled firmly on pursuing it as a career. It really feels like the right decision, and I'm entirely comfortable with it.

I can't afford to go overseas for the elective, and just about everybody else around me is organising overseas electives and flying around the globe, which makes me a little sad and jealous from time to time, but that is how life is. I hope medical students realise just how privileged we are as a group. When I did radiography it was a big thing for somebody to go interstate for elective. Medicine is another world entirely.

People are really well-off, but I don't think they realise it, because they study next to other people who fly overseas for skiing holidays on a regular basis, whose parents own massive mansions and have actually bought them accommodation to stay in that is close to where they are studying. They don't really flaunt it, it is just there, unstated. I'm not really close to these people, and I don't get asked to go on their jaunts, which is probably a good thing. I don't fit in as one of the rich kids, and I'm glad. Everything I have, I have earned though my own blood, sweat and tears, and even if I don't have as much, I am bloody proud of what I have achieved.

I'm not saying that these aren't nice people - some of them are, some of them aren't, just like the rest of society. Some of those who travel overseas regularly are lovely people, and a lot of my close friends are going overseas for elective, and I care for them a lot. It is just a different perspective to mine. Perhaps it is even a generational thing, or a personality thing.

Sometimes I really wonder how I got to be in the middle of a group of people who don't even blink at buying tickets for a quick one week overseas holiday. I have never been in that place. I think that it probably has to do with growing up without much. When we flew, we did so for free in the back of a RAAF Hercules (cargo plane), sitting sideways on canvas seating that were less comfortable than your average canvas deck chair, with industrial ear covers on to protect our hearing for the entire flight.

There was no food, and in-flight entertainment consisted of trying to read whatever you could while the plane shuddered, and attempting to not be airsick. The first time I went on a proper commercial plane, I was confused because we didn't have to wear ear protection. I kept expecting the flight attendants to hand out earplugs, at the very least. The fact that they wore makeup and dresses also confused me as I had only seen this on the TV before.

Dad was in the Royal Australian Air Force as a fitter and turner, which explains the free flights in the belly of a plane that travels at half the speed of a standard commercial flight, and Mum worked occasionally as a supply teacher. We lived in Housing Commision houses, generally in areas that were set aside for defense force personnel, but often side-by-side with the other families who qualified for free government housing. The neighbourhoods were not the poorest in town, but weren't far off it. Once we even rented furniture because the regular stuff was in storage far, far away, for safe-keeping. You got a little bit of assistance with moving and so on in those days, but nowhere near as much as they get now. As a RAAF kid, and somebody who didn't live in the nicest area of town, it was often harder to fit in. I still have a massive chip on my shoulder, and tend to be quite sensitive sometimes if I think that I'm being slighted or rejected by people I want to be my friends. Meh.

I know that some of this may reek of the old-timers telling stories of how "when I grew up, I was so poor that we had to paint our feet instead of wearing shoes!", but in a way it is also fascinating and entirely different.

People compare notes about which medical specialty earns the most, and some even target their careers towards the specialty which would give them the lifestyle that they want. When I was a radiographer, I was earning more than my parents ever did. We are comfortable at the moment, even without me working, and even without being able to fly overseas for electives/holidays.

(We are going to Hamilton Island for a week in the middle of this year because we got REALLY cheap flights and have organised some reasonable accommodation, and I saved quite a bit after working over Christmas.) Choosing a specialty based on money has never even occured to me, as no matter what I choose, I'll be earning far more than I could imagine when I was a radiographer. If I even complain about how "little" I earn, please slap me. Clearly I would have lost perspective.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I really enjoyed this post, hearing about another side of your life.