I am a medical student. I am a postgraduate doctor in Karnataka. I am doing post graduation in ophthalmology (specialty in management of conditions of the eyes) from a reputed institute in India. I am 27 yrs old. I finished my schooling in 2005. That’s right 10 years on and I’m still studying.
How many years does it take to become a doctor or a specialist? Well it’s almost 10 yrs. Those who can afford to put so much time and money make it till the end line.
I am blessed with loving family by my side and one of the best teachers from my institute to push me all the time when I feel depressed. Yes, that’s right “depression”. It’s a phase which according to a study almost half of the doctors in India are in now. Right here in my institute it may be more.
This depression is not only because of the system but the society now in which we live. The system to which we all are bound to the system in which I don’t feel that we have our independence till now.
“How much do you earn?” Someone asked me this a while ago. I smiled back and said “I am not here to earn but here to learn “. Ya, that’s true, I am ready to do that, but, don’t you think this is far away from reality we face in our life daily.
A first year post-graduate doctor, say, a post-graduate in the department of surgery, starts his day at 6:30 in the morning. Yes, you read it right for work at 6:30 AM, not for a jog but for work. The next thing is a difficult decision for him whether to take a bath or have breakfast. Well he makes a good choice, he decides to take a bath since its been almost a week when he took his last one. So the breakfast is skipped and he decides to take a glass of milk on his way to work.
In between, he receives a call from home, there is a festival at home and all family members including his brothers and sisters are there together at his grandmothers place. He is aware of all this but cancels the call and goes back to work.
Tea break for all doctors at 11:00 am, so the post-graduate calls back home talks to his mother and father and as the conversation goes on between them he begins to miss all of them deep within, but soon realizes that he has work to finish before 12:00. So he quickly winds up and runs back to the hospital and manages to finish all work by 12:30.
That done he gets a call from emergency, a mass casualty, a road traffic accident between two vehicles and many people have been injured, so he runs back to emergency area of the hospital and starts seeing all cases, admits 2 patients who are in a very critical condition,
At 1:30 pm the two patients are posted for emergency surgery and they are out of the OT around 4:00pm
Lunch got skipped too, now the post-graduate feels he is gonna collapse sooner or later. So he goes to canteen for some snacks.
Afterwards, he moves directly to the hospital for the evening rounds and examining patients in wards, followed by post operative rounds for the patients who got operated today in emergency. Rounds begin with a senior staff member starting at 5 pm, following which he completes the case files and writing notes by 6:30 in the evening. 12 hours down the day and still going on.
The post-graduate keeps his head down on the table to get a power nap (15-20 mins max).
Now what ??
The day ends ?
No it doesn’t !!
3 patients got admitted in surgery intensive care unit (ICU) and are very serious and may not make it till tomorrow, one of them belongs to an influential politician who has threatened the staff members so that special care is to be taken for that patient.
So he sits by them monitoring them for few hours when again his phone rings, it’s an unknown number, and we all know when its unknown it’s not a good news especially when you are on duty. So meekly he picks up the phone, its his colleague (thank god !!), he asks him whether he had dinner. The post-graduate gives the job of monitoring the patient to another doctor nearby for 20 minutes in exchange for the meal of the day.
Dinner finally!! at 8:00 pm, doesn’t care what he is being served but takes an extra chapati and egg for the night as he doesn’t know how long the night is going to be and is back to work by 8:30 pm.
And so it continues the monitoring of those three patients. He sleeps after giving his charge to his colleague at 12 in night since he can’t work any longer.
17 hours of work for him on that day !! Is this less ?? Well its his lucky day, he got a sleep for 6 hours at a stretch. Yes you read it right because this may be called as a regular day, for, I have seen worse, working 48 hours at a stretch.
For them the day begins at the same time (6:30 am ) but the night may never end…
Next morning he wakes up at 6:00am, before brushing his teeth he goes to see all patients. With his phone battery at 10% he decides to go back to his room to get his charger and freshen up a bit. As soon as he enters the room his neighboring doctor pays him a visit, asks him about how his duty was to which he smiled back and answered “mast!! Slept for 6 hours”.
His friend asked him something , the answer to which you can never forget!! “Dude there is no mattress here in your room, How are u even sleeping??”
He is in a hurry and replies, I hardly sleep so, I don’t need one, till now. And he is back again for work at 8:00 am this time he needs breakfast more than a bath
How much do I earn?
I say again, I don’t earn anything, since I am here to learn!!
Later during the first year, news comes to us of a doctor beaten up black and blue by a few goons because he could not save some one close to them. Then another case came to light about few doctors being harassed during night hours by relatives of a patient.
Keeping that in mind we go on a strike for our security since neither the guards of the institute or the police want to show up when they are really required. We want security!!
“From whom?” a random passerby asked us while we were on strike raising slogans, I replied from “you “.
A year passes and we are still here as usual working without what we were promised like guards round the clock with CCTV cameras, working for the people who may want to beat us someday in broad daylight, working for the institute which doesn’t even care even if we die next day.
Well lets come to how much do I earn thing, which I will tell after telling you a struggle for hike in comparison a doctor vs a politician.
So what do we do if we have to start earning for our family or may be for our future (which looks bleak anyway). The procedure is simple we give a memorandum to our director and to our local MLA requesting them for a hike so that we can earn something and send some money for our family but the struggle is infinite.
1 year down the line after submitting many memorandums we get a reply from the ministry that there isn’t any fund left for the doctors raise.
And so we continue to work and time passes by. A news which bombarded our minds and made us furious was the hike in the salary of ministers, which took place immediately following a no reply for our hike. That’s right, for ministers a hike is possible anytime even when the state is falling in a drought like situation but not for doctors.
This bill was put in a cabinet meeting and guess what it was passed within an hour (should have made it to the LIMCA book of records!! Bravo !!)
Anyhow, we again submit a memorandum before we finally decide to go on full-fledged strike and now we are on day nine, imagine minister getting a hike with in an hour.
Well as usual we don’t get replies we just get oral assurances, so we decide to continue this full-fledged strike. We strike for nine days, withdraw working force from even emergency duty as well. The bad part is the director of our institute instead of supporting us has denied in a press interview that work is not getting affected at all even by the strike. This was rubbished soon by the media people who found out the reality was far away from what has been told to them. Anyway our struggle continues.
Meanwhile A doctor in a neighbouring district hospital was arrested and his car seized, others beaten up by the police. For not helping them for a medico-legal case on an urgency basis while he was attending an emergency cesarean operation. Later not only did police harass the director of the college but as well as did a lathi charge on doctors when they protested against the police, whose fault is it ?
May be its our fault only
Because of our services free and cheaply available for everyone, people have taken us for granted. So people don’t respect doctors at all here in our own country especially in a government setup, that’s because they get treatment free of cost.
Meanwhile between all of this an old friend calls me and it seems there is a plan being made with other friends to meet up for a trip. I talk to him for some time and keep the phone down on note that it wont be possible for me to make it.
My greatest passion has always been in traveling to new places with a bike, learning mixed martial arts and badminton. But, I have always pushed them away when I have to choose between them and being a doctor.
How much do I earn??
Well I must tell you by now, I earn a meager 20k. 1/4th salary of what a post-graduate gets in Delhi. 1/3rd of what post-graduate gets in Mumbai and other big cities. This amount is just enough for us to survive.
In the end, if someone asks me what I live for and what would I be if not a doctor? My answer will still be the same.
To serve the poor by treating them, to serve my country since it has given me so much. I have only one condition that is not in a world like this, where even working for more than what labour laws of the world provides me with safety. We have no respect and no income!!
But I leave a question open to the so-called government, will any of the younger generation be ready to stay in a country with so many problems in his way to become a doctor or would he just move away to any other country like USA one day, and becomes a great surgeon there?
And the most amusing thing will be, that one of these politicians would be getting operated under their hands but not here, not in this country but may be far from here where they can work with peace, where talent is appreciated, where they feel more secure even outside their own country and actually get paid for their hard work.
But who cares its public money, right??
I hope this happens, I will be still here in India to make a taunt.
About the Author: Vaibhav Khanna is a junior resident at the Department of Ophthalmology in Karnataka Institute of Nedical Sciences, Hubli. This article was first posted here.