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Dear Doctor’s Diary: Gut Feeling

SHO medic Omar Hafeez-Bore is director/producer and founder of Short Sharp Productions. His honest, chatty one minute films capture the thoughts and opinions of  young UK doctors and nurses.

More on Short Sharp Scratch Productions from founder Omar Hafeez-Bore

To know about Short Sharp Scratch Productions, you first have to know about Dr Nicola Lowe.

For a start, she’s probably the funniest girl I know. And really I’m only saying ‘probably’ to avoid arguments with the sort-of-funny ones. But Nicola is properly witty. Eye-wettingly, cross-your-legs-in-case-you-wee-a-bit funny, that much is obvious. But it was only when we worked together – during our final FY1 placement in ENT Surgery – that I came to realise that she had something that many of our straight-arrow, pleasant and polite medical colleagues lacked: actual Weirdness. Not the smile-and-slowly-step-towards-the-door kind, but the other, better and more surprising kind. It was in our very first ENT teaching session together that she challenged me to draw a unicorn.

So the placement as a whole became a lot of fun. And because there were no Senior House Officers on the rotation – and the registrars were very supportive – the un-senior Nicola and I quickly gained a lot of experience in the basics of acute ENT management, gleefully inflating Rapid Rhino packs in bleeding noses, and easing out fish bones playing peek-a-boo from behind a patient’s tonsils. We even learned what to actually look for when peering inside ears with an otoscope, just like the doctors you see on the telly.

So we decided to make some ENT videos. Now, I had done a quite a lot of video-making at university – most likely instead of learning what to look for when peering into ears with an otoscope- and was vaguely on the hunt for something creative to sink my teeth into. I knew it’d be fun to work on something comedy-themed with Nicola; all my fondest memories from university were from working with mates on joint-projects. And in truth, we needed a more productive outlet for our ‘hilarity’ than prank-calling each other with fake referrals when on-call (by ‘more productive’ I mean ‘safer’ and ‘less unprofessional’).

Short Sharp Scratch Productions was born, and we made 6 videos on the theme of ‘ENT Basics’. We tried to make them as hysterical as we found ourselves, so inevitably there’s a lot of our own brand of bizarre in them (see: ‘Felix the Feline Foreign Body’). But despite that both hospital staff and online viewers seemed to ‘get’ them. The production quality wasn’t great (the video camera is designed for underwater use) and the teaching ‘style’ was questionable, but people still responded warmly/politely.

In our second year as doctors, when we met up to plan our much-anticipated (by our mums) sophomore series, we spent more time regaling each other with our most dramatic hospital escapades. It’s part of that wider group therapy that takes places in doctor’s messes and corridor alcoves everywhere, tapping into a sense of shared experience and understanding amongst young doctors.

It didn’t take long for us to get excited about a new, slightly more ambitious idea for our next set of videos: A series about the experience of being a new doctor – those first couple of years that rush by in a flurry of fear, learning and personal. Like a professional puberty. And the content would be by junior doctors themselves, in interview format.

We wanted it to have a more casual, conversational tone, but not to be some sort of exposé of doctors. Every profession has its own idiosyncrasies and in-jokes, unspoken understandings of what can be said amongst peers and what might be lost in translation when taken out of hospital context. So when editing I tried to err on the side of caution and not use any footage that was too irreverent. I didn’t include one of the best ejaculation stories I’d ever heard.

What we did include was the nurses’ perspective, and thank god we did; in the video they do exactly what they do in real life, adding warmth and wisdom, and the occasional necessary puncturing of doctor pomp.

Here I hold my hands up, for practical reasons I took the reins on this project, and so must also take the flak, for filming staff at the tail-end of night shifts, when the sun comes up and their bed beckons; for making Lottie re-enact 20-minutes of spontaneous chatter because I forgot to turn the microphone on; for the meandering interview ‘technique’; and so on and so on.

But it turned out well. In splicing together snippets of sentences into conversation threads that make sense, I think it gives a nice sense of community, of a shared journey. The original 3 ‘Journey of a Junior Doctor’ videos seemed to ring true for many, which was great.

And now for The Hippocratic Post I’ve re-cut those epics (who watches Youtube for more than 10-minutes?!) into shorter, more digestible little vignettes and, if anything, I think they work better for it. I hope people agree, and hope they can slip more easily into the gaps of life; the waits between trains, the snatched coffee-room minutes or over a post-night-shift breakfast; like a casual chat with a colleague that you relate to, and whose company you enjoy.

Hippocratic Post

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