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14 Feb 2020

I spend a lot of time thinking about which specialty to pursue, but after today I know for sure…  

I’m in a rural town – reasonably close to home, but at times it feels further. Commencing the shortest commute of my working life, I make use of the 2-minute walk to the hospital, leaving home at 7:58am. 8am, and its handover time and the start of a full day at the hospital, as well as the night on call.  

I’m spending five weeks here – two beds in the emergency department, and about ten in the ward. I take my time seeing each patient, chatting and getting to know them. Making sure they slept well and checking how the hospital food is (as I’m on secondment, this is what I’m eating too, so if there are any meals that are exceptional, I want to know).  

My day in the hospital runs relatively smoothly. By the afternoon I’m heading back to the nurse’s quarters, I have dinner, read for a few moments and then the phone rings. The ED has become quite busy, and they’ll need me for a while. Once again, I’m grateful for the two-minute commute.  

It’s constant work until around 9pm. We have a patient who has been waiting for about an hour, she’s having suicidal ideation and is hoping to speak to the psychiatry team. I take the patient to the family room and we talk for about an hour, maybe more. I feel I understand her situation a little. After quite some time she decides it’s best to head home and come back tomorrow, and we agree on this path of action. “Thank you”, she says, “I feel much better just for talking about things.”  
As I write up my notes before I finish for the night and return to my lodgings for what I hope might be some uninterrupted sleep, I think to myself how different that was – to have done nothing but talk, to have taken a history, yet without a prescription or procedure to have reduced someone’s suffering.  

One year on, and I’m in my training interview for a spot in the psychiatry program. “So, what made you interested in psychiatry?” the panel asks. I think back to this patient - this was the first time I considered psychiatry as the specialty for me. I now can’t imagine having followed another path.  


Dr Nicola Campbell

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Published: 14 Feb 2020