Mike is a doctor from the UK. Having settled into his new role, he blogs about what he misses from his life at home, and what it's like to find yourself dealing with a new job, changing expectations, and a different culture...
I found it exciting to start my assignment, meet new people and be in a different place where even the signs are a struggle to read. (Reading Arabic writing is not something I’m confident in yet, though there is progress I’m glad to say.) There is so much to get used to and a new role too.
I suspect that I’m now in another phase where the newness is not as fresh and the challenges are more clear and I’ve yet to make a great impact on the role that I’ve taken on. Colleagues have told me that this is pretty normal and I’m certainly not down overall but aware that I’m missing things and this is affecting how I feel. (Possibly it would also be easier to write a positive blog about an interesting trip to colleagues working in another project in Ramtha, or how I am loving asking Jordanians about their families and discovering the fascinating mix of “Well I’m Jordanian, but of my siblings I’m the only one who is and the rest are Iraqi, Turkish, American, British, Lebanese” etc. Sometimes this is then finished with “But all of us really are Palestinian!” It makes me wonder about the reality of the borders that apparently define our nationalities.)
One of the things I am missing most is therapeutic touch
Reflecting back on how I am feeling, I think that one of the things I am missing most is therapeutic touch. For almost all of my adult life I’ve been a doctor, and through this have had regular touch with my patients, whether examining chests, and joints, or through taking a pulse or holding the hand of someone who has been hurt emotionally. Now I’m in an advisory and managerial role with no clinical work I’m missing this contact. At the same time I’m in a country where generally touching is between people of the same sex (except within couples or families), and as yet I’ve not got the deep and knowing relationships with my male colleagues that brings with it hugs and physical contacts. I’ve also left wife and family behind and with that I’ve left behind their regular physical contact and hugs. So the positive physical benefits of touch and the release of oxytocin, or reduction in cortisol are less part of my life than I’m used to. It’s an odd feeling / absence of feeling.
It’s an odd feeling, or absence of feeling
I’m also aware that I chose to apply for this totally different role, but find it challenging that the new role is one that is (as fits a new person to an organisation possibly) much lower in responsibility and independence. I’m not used to the structure I’m working within and the levels of scrutiny that this involves. There is also a peculiar mix of needing to work through official processes and pathways and at the same time being expected to be thinking of creative solutions to help improve the care and systems we run. I’m aware that some of the loss of high responsibility and high respect that I’ve been used to is something that is going to happen to me at some point relatively soon as I begin to ‘retire’. So it is possible that some of this is a useful preparation for that, and a reminder not to try to see myself through the expectations of others. It’s unsettling and I think probably time-bound, as once I’m more settled in the role and system may be much easier.
Mixed in with this is a tension about discovering that the role that I’d discussed with a predecessor and which was described with teaching high on the list of roles’ needs has, for good organisational reasons, now got much less time for teaching. I can see the logic, and I do have other skills that the role needs, but a bit of me is grieving for the teaching that I had expected, but do not seem likely to be doing much of.
I’m aware that I’ve been here probably enough now to discover the day-to-day stuff and (apart from some mistakes over internal processes) do the regular stuff well enough, but I’ve not been here long enough to get into a real project or start getting on with more important things, so logically it is no surprise that this is a wobbly blue patch. With time there will be successes that I’ll be proud of, I’m sure, and this will change my emotions. Though I’m also wondering whether it is partly also that recruiting older UK GPs or physicians doing this role may find some parts hard.
It is hard to remember to have fun when there is the alternative of burying yourself deeper in doing more
I loved my father-in-law. He was a remarkable man who lived longer after his wife had died than they’d been together. He lived actively and buried himself in campaigning and gardening and doing things. He had a well-established routine: exercises, then gardening then periods on his computer and so on. I used to see one of my roles as trying to enter his life and help him to have fun because I wondered if he’d lost his way on finding fun. I’ve been thinking about him recently as I make sure I have my minutes on the static bike as well as walking to work, do my course to learn to meditate, visit the clinics or work hard in the office, and I’ve new admiration for him and so many others. It is hard to remember to have fun when there is the alternative of burying yourself deeper in doing more. I hope I keep this gem in mind for some time.
So tomorrow, as it is a national holiday, I’m off to the capital to be a tourist and I’ll be there practicing smiling because just using those muscles makes it easier to feel good (and that is real science not fake news!).
PS. Please note that this blog will possibly take a week or two to be posted by the time I’ve checked it and so on, and that I’ve chosen to write about some of the realities for me of this change and how it affects me. Much of the time these bits are nowhere near my thoughts and don’t worry, I’m not depressed! And by the time you read this I may have got my teeth into a new piece of work, and will be busy covering colleagues who are taking well needed rests.