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And Finally


									And Finally...
Doctors’ holidays
James Drife
It’s the time of year when we start dreaming of our next holiday.       The gite years
O u r dreams change as we advance through our medical careers
but we all agree that holidays are essential. Doctors and lay           A thirst for adventure is a natural reaction to a supervised,
people believe that no human being can do the same job, week            regulated, protocol-driven job, but sooner or later most doctors
in week out, for more than six months without cracking up.              reach the family holiday stage. This too has changed. Back in
                                                                        the days when I was the one wearing the waterwings, we went
This is a modern delusion. Our forefathers and foremothers had          to the British seaside - returning every year, like salmon, to the
to milk the cows, morning and evening, every day throughout             same stretch of water. This unchanging ritual was our parents’
the year.As a student doing a holiday job I remember the works          reaction, I think, to participating in the Second World War.
forewoman remarking that she had never had a holiday in forty           After years of not knowing where you would be from one
years. I was shocked. Was this physically possible? She had rings       month to the next, a settled routine was something exotic.
under her eyes but otherwise she looked fine.
                                                                        When we became parents, family holidays meant a French gite.
The phrase ‘holiday job’ is a bit of a giveaway. If we really           Preferably close to the ferry port. (‘Sommes-nous presque la
needed a complete break we would spend it in prayer, fasting            yet?’) In France everyday activities like shopping and eating
and contemplation, which is presumably what was expected in             were a mega adventure because, despite years of study the
the distant past, when the ‘holy day’ (notice, just one day) was        language remained deeply foreign. The public telephones were
the only break allowed from a life of constant agricultural toil.       subtly and impenetrably different from ours and so we were
                                                                        incommunicado. Just paperbacks, vin ordinaire and le crazy
‘Holiday’ now means different things to different people. For the       golf. Wonderful.
likes of Thomas Cook it is a business opportunity. For the BMA
negotiator it is paragraphs 874-923 of the new contract. For the        Nowadays you call the specialist registrar on her mobile.
working clinician it is something to look forward to with pleas-        ‘Actually, I’m paragliding right now - can I call you back?’They
urable anticipation and to look back on with nostalgia.The bit          never switch them off, you know.
in between - actually going on holiday - is the tedious part.
                                                                        Oldies on the move
Young, gifted and backpacking                                           Being an older consultant means, among other things, having
Some holidays are special, though.Your first break from your            more disposable income. But just because a holiday is more
first job is a wonderful feeling. O r rather, it was. Now that          expensive, does that mean it is more enjoyable?You bet it does.
house officers - we’re told - work more humane hours, they              It isn’t just the money. Companies that cater for the senior
may not experience quite the same sense of release from                 holidaymaker know that the only way to keep a busload of
bondage. In the bad old days we felt much like Edwardian mill           Victor Meldrews quiet is through immaculate organisation and
workers must have felt at the start of the Blackpool fortnight.         attention to detail.
During our last day at work we were demob happy and when
we left, the rush of joy was better than sex.                           For the academic, though, the urge begins to fade.You never
                                                                        get blas6 about jetting off to conferences here and there as part
Nowadays it is different. The young doctor just disappears.The          of the job, and you are pleased that your accompanying person
consultant naturally assumes this is another quirk of the new rota      has developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the world’s art
- a stint of night duty, perhaps, or a residential course on clinical
                                                                        galleries. But somehow, your idea of a holiday is to disappear a
governance organised by the human resources directorate.Then,           few miles up the road to somewhere small and remote, with no
two weeks later, the young doctor reappears, slightly tanned,           mobile and not even any waterwings.
wearing Inca earrings or carrying a shrunken head.

These days, the travellers’ tales that hold the antenatal clinic
spellbound come from the youngest doctors. Ah, the internet
caf6 in Tandjungredeb! And the ferry to Baclobalatu? Man, it’s
so crowded. It just keeps sinking.The trick is, watch the captain
and when he jumps, you jump.You should eat plenty garlic -                                   Jatiies Drift. MI:) f : i w J G m c - r w r - i u ! i < j ,
sharks hate it. And put empty water bottles in your backpack                                 Professor o Obstetrics and Gynaecologx
for buoyancy, like they tell you in the hostel. It’s really relaxing                         University of Leeds, UK.
- we may go back.


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