In this post I want to tell you how it looks like to work as a surgical FY1 (junior doctor) in the Emergency Department. This involves fielding phone calls from GPs (general practitioners) who think their patients might have a surgical issue and need urgent assessment. I’m often the first doctor to see them when they arrive, and once I’ve made a provisional plan, a senior reviews the patient to double check the management plan.

One evening, I was typing up some patient notes when an FY2 doctor (one year senior) sat next to me. We vaguely knew each other, so I casually said “hey man how’s it going?”. He replied with “pretty great, you?”

I’m surprised by how surprised I was at that response.

“Pretty great.”

That’s something I almost never hear in response to the “how’s it going” question. People usually reply with “yeah not bad” or some variant of “sigh, struggling on”. I expressed my surprise to the doctor, who shrugged and said “we’re saving lives doing medicine, that sounds pretty great to me”.

This small injection of positivity made such a difference to the rest of my day, that now when people ask me how I’m doing, I make a point to be a little more enthusiastic with my response. It’s not that I’m faking anything - I’m normally pretty content at most times of the day.

It’s just that (at least in the UK) I feel we have a bias towards downplaying our positive emotions. Especially in an environment like Medicine where it’s fashionable to act as if we’re only just managing to stay afloat, sprinkling a small dose of positivity around us can work wonders.