Since the beginning of January I am no longer gainfully employed by someone else. Business was slow and work a little too relaxed, and I'd started forgetting what it's like to be a doctor. By mutual agreement with my employer, we said our goodbyes. They tell you not to leave your current job until you have another one lined up (or is it - don't leave your current boyfriend unless you have a new one lined up? I get confused). I had nothing lined up expect for a few locum days at the SPCA hospital. Such perhaps unwise audacity was inspired by a trip to a First Nations reserve in November where a team of us volunteered at a spay-neuter clinic. Just like that, I was happy to be busy, to be run off my feet in a sustained adrenaline buzz. And no longer afraid of making a bad mistake, or of not being able to give people an answer as to what's the matter with their animal. Not that my skills and knowledge were significantly different from what they were a year back. It's just that I'd had time to take stock of what I knew, and cross some invisible barrier from rookie to doctor. Some people cross it sooner than that, and some start out as fully-fledged doctors on their first day of work. I envy them, but I'm old enough to know I'm not going to be someone else.
The few locum days at the SPCA hospital have been a blast. I've picked up more, and have made agreements with other hospitals in BC to work for short periods. There is no way I could have done this kind of work straight out of school. It takes the relatively sheltered cove of a permanent job with a mentor for reassurance if nothing else. Mine was very kind and easy-going but still buggered off on holiday two weeks after he hired me, and I remember being furious with him for having that kind of faith in me. I was particularly furious one night when I had to do a resection-anastomosis on a dog who'd impaled its abdomen on a sharp stick, with the stick tearing up a tuft of fur and driving it right through the jejeunum and out the other side. I felt dumped, abandoned, and somehow deeply wronged. I resented my boss for his failure to understand how hard it is for someone without his 20 years' experience. In hindsight I think he knew what he was doing: forcing me to do things I'd be too timid to undertake on my own initiative. I learned a heck of a lot. But I was scared a lot of the time. Most newbies tend to get scared in various new situations, and until that fear is overcome, it's probably not a good idea to take it with you to different work places where there are new people and new protocols to learn every time. Now that I finally have the same faith in myself as my boss had in me from the start, but no longer working there, I'm trying myself out as a locum. Or locust, as my sweetie likes to say. Hopping off on a new adventure each time.
The nerd knowledge I had on graduation is about 80% gone, by a generous estimate. I no longer remember what exactly happens at the proximal and the distal tubules of the nephron, what gets resorbed or dumped and by what mechanisms. I know where to look it up quickly when the need arises. The new things I learn are, and will remain, the tip of the iceberg of veterinary medical knowledge. I know how to go about the uncertainty without panicking, and how to talk to people without feeling personally responsible for their emotional state. And I also know how to select CE courses that will actually teach me something, now that I'm paying for them out of my own pocket ;-)