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17 Sep 2019

I’m sitting in a racecourse, just as I did when sitting the UMAT, except it’s 36 degrees and I’m sweltering.
Why on earth is a foetal ultrasound question on our Adult Medicine Exam?
I know it shouldn’t be there; it’ll be discarded.
I’m scared of how dazed I feel. They say you shouldn’t change your answers.
I’m dismayed when the results arrive. It's even worse than last year.
Another year of studying and sacrificing time for myself - the year ahead is already lost.
Two years- soon, maybe three. Should I have sat this time?

Just twelve months prior, I’d sat in that same racecourse. I’m proud I tried.
That first year, so much was happening. This time, it wasn’t easy, but life was more stable.
Consultants shared how they’d failed, too. It was almost a rite of passage to fail.
Once, maybe not twice - not at our hospital.

There are no supps for the written. You drag “failure” around for another year.
You try maintaining your exam day peak. Maintained like an engine on idle ‘til you sat again.
It wasn’t fuel efficient.

I don’t expect sympathy but I feel betrayed.
The one person in power I chose to share with, chose to disempower my struggle. Chose to invalidate it.
That made me wonder if I hated Medicine. It was now more than feeling sad about failing. 
Had Medicine betrayed me? The way we were treated, it didn’t feel like a noble profession. 

Some bosses laughed at us to a roomful of trainees, another BPT said. We were called into meetings and felt like losers.
We’d dared to try, but we’d failed, and were punished like disobedient schoolchildren. 
We’re hustling, making life-changing choices for strangers at 3AM- I startle myself with my bravery, facing fears I never imagined when sitting the UMAT.
The beauty of medicine- it unveils hidden strengths and you have to recognise your successes, holding on when the world is scornful.

Friends are studying for the Clinicals. I’m embarrassed when we meet.
Maybe they’ll see failure when seeing me. The Grim Reaper with a pager. 
Was I most upset about failure? Or at others’ judgment afterward?
Did their opinions colour my self-worth? I wouldn't have known their true colours if I’d passed. 

It’s like running into a brick wall, again and again.
I had to pause. Reassess my wall game. 

Studying through my twenties, I wanted a life again. Who knew how long it’d take? Perhaps months, years.  
I can always re-sit. Have the break I’d never had. Explore fashion, travel, music. Wake without a plan.
I wanted to be healthy.

I grinned as I stepped off the first of many flights. It was my first locum. Tasmania. Next, Queensland.
I took a deep breath, inhaling lungfuls of crisp air, so sweet in its freshness.
This was the beginning of my own incredible adventure.


About the author:  Dr Louise Teo is a physician trainee and writer who has worked throughout metropolitan and rural areas in Australia. Her interests in medical entrepreneurship, creativity and doctors’ health combined to form, which shares stories about people doing innovative things inspired by healthcare.

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Published: 17 Sep 2019