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Like father, like son?

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 02 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:64

    I was a house surgeon in a London teaching hospital 35 years ago.

    I am a house surgeon in a London teaching hospital.

    The transition from student to house officer was impressive. All members of staff had tolerated students as an unavoidable affliction. Now, suddenly, we were an integral part of their work and were liked, respected, and helped by everyone.

    As a student it was easy to feel like a spare part. As a house officer you are an integral part, but there are times when no one appreciates it. Few in the health care team respect house officers, most treat us with disdain. If I request blood investigations after 5 00 pm I am frequently cross examined by the laboratory technician about why she should perform the investigation out of hours and why the tests had not been sent before. House officers are seen as fair game for all and sundry to take their frustrations out on. Being a good house officer depends little on your clinical skills but almost entirely on your ability to grovel and take abuse from anyone who cares to throw it, so that at the end of the day the investigations and treatments are performed and the patients get better.

    We had no off duty. We were working or instantly available in the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the whole of the six months' appointment. We worked an emergency one in three rota but as old patients from years before were readmitted as emergencies under the original …

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