Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

Life and loathes of a new doctor: The riddle fiddle

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.050121b (Published 01 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:050121b
  1. Stephen Goldie, pre-registration house officer1
  1. 1Glasgow Royal Infirmary

If Paula Radcliffe thought she was exhausted after the Olympic marathon in Greece this summer then she should try working a week as a receiving house officer. It seems that the recently introduced European Working Time Directive has lost something in the translation. Apparently the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker can only work 48 hours per week, but doctors being superhuman can do 56 hours. Despite this new law, my newly qualified colleagues and I are injecting people with morphine at 6 am after working 70-80 hours that week--legally. Paula finished the race in dehydrated delirium--much like I feel at the end of night shift. My new definition of a patient with renal failure is someone who pees less than their preregistration house officer.

According to the unfortunately named “Riddle formula” we still only work an average of 55.99 999 hours per week (average includes a projected 40 years of retirement). However, that's because the calculation only counts the time in which you are touching the floor of an NHS hospital. As a receiving house officer …

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