Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Working On Orkney

I can't say why I chose to take a job working in Orkney for 6 months, I have to admit, I had no idea where Orkney even was (and had a big shock when I searched for it on Google maps after applying). I saw it advertised, thought it looked interesting and a bit different and without too much thought applied for it. I never regretted what I guess was a bit of an impulsive decision..

Working in Balfour hospital was a big change from what I was used to even in the district hospitals in Newcastle. After a week though I loved it and couldn't imagine why I would want to work in a bigger hospital. The nurses and ward staff were really friendly and made me feel welcome straight away. They were invaluable in pointing you in the right direction and explaining the inner runnings of the hospital. There are not any registrars working at the hospital, or foundation doctors, so it is just you and the consultants. This often meant you often ended up asking a consultant something you would never dream of asking a consultant in a bigger hospital (I once ended up calling one of the surgeons in for what turned out to be a 1cm graze to the end of a girls finger.. he took it great). The consultants were always happy to be asked anything or to come in to help if you felt uncomfortable, even in the middle of the night.

Out of hours you are generally the only doctor in the hospital, spending most of your time in A+E and popping down to the wards to see any unwell patients or finish any jobs that didn't get done in the day. It is a small hospital but I probably saw the widest variety of presentations that I have seen so far, from trauma (there is a lot of fishing and farming), acute MI's, and chronic conditions such as MS. This is partly because if the patient is on Orkney, they will come to the Balfour, and if they come to the Balfour then chances are you are going to be the one to see them. You do feel you are given a lot of responsibility as you are often the only doctor in the hospital, and anything could walk through the door. Although initially this did feel scary, the consultants were always available for advice and would be there in less than 20 minutes if you needed them. The ambulance would call with advanced warning if they were bringing in a patient which would give you time to prepare, and call for help if needed. I soon felt comfortable in the hospital and confident that help would be available if I needed it. The experience of being alone has helped me feel more confident in future jobs.

The nurses in particular are used to the Doctors arriving who have most likely never been to Orkney before, and as well as keeping you on track in the hospital will soon have you aquainted with the Orkney social scene, which I have to say isn't bad.

I'll stick to the facts in term of night life, there are 3 or 4 great bars within easy walking distance from the hospital, which were a great place to meet and relax after work. There is also a club, it only opens Saturday night, you need to try it, that's all I will say.

Apart from drinking and working there was always entertainment to be found. The beaches are beautiful even in the storms of winter, when just walking along one can be very exciting. During the summer months we spent a lot of time at the beaches having barbecues, playing bowls, even swimming. The roads are also great for biking, they are actually quite smooth (although hillier than you would expect), the scenery is incredible and there are not many cars. We chose to spend quite a lot of time trying to catch a lobster using pots we found washed up on the beach, after multiple attempts, (at one point using a lilo to take the pot out to sea), we managed a lovely crab salad, unfortunately the lobster never appeared.

When I saw where Orkney was on a map I was worried about how I would get there, and that I might just end up stuck there for 6 months. There are actually plenty of options though, there are regular boats to Scrabster and Aberdeen and flying from the airport is really easy. There is free parking at the airport and you only need to arrive half an hour before your flight! I actually thought I would want to return to the mainland more than I did but I actually found I wanted to stay on the islands at weekends and time off. Visiting the other islands is great too, either by boat or by the tiny planes (including the shortest commercial flight in the world, you can ask for a certificate). The puffins on Westray in the summer were definitely worth a trip, and the beaches on Sandy even on the rainy windy day we visited were incredible.

I was definitely unsure before I went to Orkney of how I would find it, and if I was making a mistake. I had an amazing 6 months, learnt loads about medicine, as well as about how not to catch a lobster, and made some great friends. I'd even quite like to go back and work there for a year or so when I qualify.

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