Junior Doctors in August

The first Wednesday in August is a day of reckoning for many. Also known as ‘Black Wednesday’ it is when all the junior doctors start a new job. Whether they are fresh from Medical school, or have a year or two’s experience under their belt, this is often an anxious time. New routines, new responsibilities, new hospital systems and new team members: comfort in familiarity and experience is temporarily lost.

For the brand new doctors this is often a time of massive change. A feeling of being ‘uprooted’ is common where they have moved from a city they had lived in for the last five years to a new place, with new people, no settled church, new responsibilities and a loss of the support network that had so effortlessly been there for so many years.

Along with this, the learning curve is steep. Non-familiarity with hospital systems and dealing with sick patients will inevitably challenge even the most prepared of new doctors. First night shifts and weekends on call are often a rite of passage; but a loss of routine, and an incessant bleep can echo in the mind long after a shift has finished.

Amid this tumult of change and chaos there is one constant – our God. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (including Junior doctors!) (Psalm 146:6) and the source of all comfort and joy (2Cor 1:3).Our sovereign God guides our footsteps through our first days on the wards and much further beyond that (Proverbs 16:9). He allows us to be tested for our good, to develop our character, and so we can know him better (James 1:2-4).

This is a challenging time for all of our Juniors, but our God is faithful and our weakness can display his strength (2 Cor 12:10)

Medical Students in August

August for students often means the opposite of work. However, distractions of free time and lack of routine can sometimes mean that a holiday from Uni becomes a holiday from Jesus.

For some students August is resit season. As medics our identity is often wrongly found in our success and a first failure can cut to the core. No longer being comfortable in describing oneself as ‘a 3rd year medical student’ , can make a young Christian question whether God made a mistake in sending them to medical school in the first place. Gods plan for them has been starkly different to their own plan, and anger at God can result.

The truth is that both of these situations are brilliant opportunities for growth as a Christian. Extra free time (which is often not appreciated fully until one starts working!) is a precious resource which can be used to know God better. Difficult times too, can be a way God grows his Children to be more reliant on him for their joy instead of fleeting joy in a current situation.

Please join with me in praying for our Juniors:

  • That they find stability in the Lord Jesus who is alive and living in us
  • That they cling to Him rather than look to temporary worldly comforts
  • That they find joy in serving the Lord through the ministry of medicine
  • That they seek and find faithful churches in their new location

Please join with me in praying for our Students:

  • That they use their extra free time to get to know God better
  • That those who are re-sitting may find their strength in God alone

Please pray for me:

  • Praise God that I have had the opportunity to go part time to help support Christian students and Juniors in Preston
  • Please pray that I will know God better through studying his word in more depth this year
  • Please pray that God can prompt me in how to serve the new Juniors best through this time

Summer School – I was sick and in prison…

Last week Aaron and I attended a summer school run by Petros training and the Christian Medical Fellowship. The aim of the course was to learn to serve patients from challenging backgrounds.

We were only able to attend one day, however we still managed to cover self harm & suicide, personality disorders, angry patients, adults with learning disabilities and sex offenders. The jewel of the day’s content was having professional actors allowing us to practice having a consultation with a prisoner with drug seeking behaviour, or dealing with inappropriate comments from patients, or how to assess suicide risk in vulnerable women.

It was a challenging day, but it was so good! This course was superior to any of my foundation teaching and certainly much more interesting. For the first time in ages I felt excited to be a doctor, and wanted to make a difference to the society I live in. I cannot recommend this enough for anyone who wants to marry up the desire and the practicalities of reaching the least, the last, and the lost

Off the back of this we had a Danish visitor called Tobias come to visit our home over the weekend. It was great to hear about what it is like to be a medical student in Denmark, and to try to encourage him as we were able.


The way we introduce ourselves can fall into one of three categories:

Excuse for being there?

The way we introduce ourselves includes our purpose for being there (to distinguish between us and a bloke off the street).

For example, when I’m at work I introduce myself as “The student intern”. Or when I am in a hospital “I’m a medical student”.

Who do we belong to?

I often find myself explaining myself in relation to someone else

“I’m Fred’s daughter”

“I’m Dr Reed’s student”

“I’m John’s girlfriend”

On who’s authority?

Another way we might introduce ourselves is by explaining who sent us. For example, in the hospital, I might introduce myself as a medical student but then go on to say that “Dr Wright has sent me to ask you a few questions”

By doing this we are saying that someone more important has asked you to be there (and often by doing this we are deferring any blame away from ourselves

The way we introduce ourselves can point towards where we find our identity.

But what happens when our identity changes?

At the beginning of this academic year my identity changed. Not that I changed my name or had a make-over, but I could no longer introduce myself in one sentence using the BSMS mantra:

“Good afternoon, my name is Liz McClenaghan. I am a third year medical student from Brighton and Sussex Medical School.”

Now I take some explaining.

I am a medical student, though not currently, but I will be again next year. I am doing a post-grad course, but I have never graduated, and I wont graduate this summer either. I work for a Christian charity, but I’m actually a volunteer intern, so I don’t exactly class as a ‘worker’.

I found it really quite unsettling to realise that I couldn’t introduce myself the way I was used to.

However, knowing our true, eternal identity actually comes knowing who we are in Christ.

Why are we here, who do we belong to, who sent us?

Knowing who our Lord is… and from that, knowing why we are here who do we belong to and knowing exactly who sent us

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19-20

What I’ve been up to over the last few months…

On the 6th February 2011, 12 students from seven different countries arrived in London for one of the highlights of the CMF calendar: the International Student Preconference!

This conference brings Christian medical students from countries all over Eurasia to the UK for one week to gain teaching from UK experts in many areas, including Medical Ethics, Palliative Primary Care and Developing World Medicine, along with leadership and evangelism training. The hope is that the student will return to their country encouraged and envisioned in Christian medical ministry within their country, and able to give eternal benefit to other students in their Universities with the teaching they have received.

This year we had students from Syria, Hungary, Holland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Tajikistan and Russia for the pre-conference (with another three Hungarians and a doctor from Portugal joining us for the NSC)

During the week we spent time talking over important issues of Christian leadership, ethical issues in our day to day practice, and the importance of attending patients’ eternal lives as well as their physical bodies.

There were talks from John and Celia Wyatt, Bernard Palmer, Members of PRIME, local palliative care doctors, our international ministries team and many more!

Apart from being spiritually refreshing and equipping the week was also jammed full of fun! This was mainly thanks to the hospitality of those members who opened their homes to us in the evenings and helped with transporting from one side of London to the other.

For most of the students this was their first visit to the UK so, of course, there was a lot of sightseeing to be done! We toured round Westminster and along the Thames with a flurry of photography as we went. Another highlight of the week was Jay Smith’s Biblical Tour of the British Museum, and then we visited Burrswood Hospital. This is a Christian hospital where a ‘Bio-psycho-social-spiritual model’ is implemented. One of the moments which will stay with me forever was when the staff of Burrswood prayed for us and commissioned us in our future ministry as Christian Doctors.

I encourage you to join me in praying for them as Paul prayed for the Colossians:

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” 1 Colossians 1:9-13

And just to let you have a more detailed look at what went on I have included a video one of the attendees made about the week.



Bible is a storybook?

I was reading the Evening Standard tonight on the way back from Uni and stumbled upon this article:


I like the idea of the Bible being read out to an audience, I really do, but I also don’t think this article presents the Bible fairly.

Describing the Bible as “one of the most significant pieces of world literature” and emphasising it’s “thrilling stories, glorious imagery and incredible language” really makes it sound like an excellent children’s’ book much on a par with Grimm Fairy-tales.

A more accurate description might emphasise that it is a well written history book, faithfully describing events which are also upheld by other historical records of the times. Perhaps mentioning that the surviving translations we use are actually more reliable to the original document than copies of Homer’s Iliad.

This article might also like to mention that it is claimed to be the word of the Creator, that describes the reason why this world is so corrupted, and shows that there is a solution, one that we cannot earn but is given freely to those who believe it. Most controversially perhaps it claims that God himself cared so much about us that he became a human, lived on this earth, worked miracles, claimed he was God, was brutally killed, and came back to life!

Churches read small sections in each service so that they can study it as a group, appreciating its significance and how it is still relevant in the society we live in today and learning how we can come back into relationship with God without striving to follow rules.

Due to these amazing claims, the Bible and Christianity surely deserves investigation and careful thought.

In the words of C.S.Lewis:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.”

So, just another storybook? or the most controversial book ever written? One which needs careful thought perhaps?


One of the first things to understand about ethics is that we all ascribe to some sort of ‘worldview’. This is a set of presuppositions by which we sort out what is meaningful in our lives. We all have one whether we like to admit it or not. It may be based on religious teaching, or rebellion against religious teaching, whatever our best mate believes, or can even be a result of our own indecisiveness.

What is important to realise is that whatever your worldview is, it will influence your decisions in life, and this becomes most evident in the life of a Doctor. We will be routinely making decisions which have much wider implications than ‘what shall I eat for breakfast?’

Any worldview should answer these questions: How do we know what we know? What is truth? What is right? How should we meet our goals? How is the world made up? Where are we heading?

A dominant worldview within Medicine and Science is Reductionism. A view glorified by Richard Dawkins and other members of ‘the Brights’. Reductionism is a world-view which sees “properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from one scientific domain (typically at higher levels of organization) can be deduced from or explained by the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from another domain of science (typically one about lower levels of organization)” (Stanford dictionary of Philosophy).

As you can see, not all of the questions above can be answered by Reductionism. It is only concerned with what the cause of something is, not of the purpose of something. With regards to the question ‘Why did you cross the road?’ One (Teleological) response would be “to get to the other side.” Reductionism however would answer “Because I was pushed”. Reductionism is only concerned with looking back on the causality of an action and never forward to the ‘intent’ of an action. So while Reductionism seems very ‘enlightened’ it merely hides behind a barrier of science to congratulate itself on its own cleverness, pushing aside the other ‘big questions’ and passing them off as unimportant.

Another dominant worldview in our society is ‘Post-modernism’. This is where someone’s view is that ‘anything goes’ and ‘there is no such thing as absolute truth’. In my opinion this is sheer laziness. This is the path of least resistance. Someone ascribing to this is likely to encourage anybody to do anything they choose without questioning, even if they know it would be to their detriment. It in itself is also a self-refuting statement: if there is ‘no such thing as absolute truth’ how can that statement itself be true for everyone?

For an example of how this might be worked out in practice: Miss A, 19 year old student comes in requesting an abortion. As the Doctor I could answer this request without any questions because “Who am I to say that it is right or wrong”. “Whatever my views on abortion, I cannot impose them on someone else, therefore I should not question her decision.”

If I did this, exacting a postmodern worldview, I would be avoiding an opportunity to have a difficult, but necessary, conversation to ensure that the Miss A is not being coerced into this decision and is, in fact, making an informed decision. The end result may well be the same but surely the second option is the better way to really care for our patients?

These are just two of the most prevalent worldviews we encounter every day without realising it. What I would like to propose is that not enough of us take the time to think about our worldview. But by doing this we will not only clarify a lot of issues in our own mind, but also help you to understand those people who may be opposed to you… always remembering that this is just as likely to be a patient, than as a colleague, both now and in the future.

Travelling by train

I’ve just sat down and worked out that since the end of term (22nd July 2010) I have travelled 4607 miles by train.

This includes travelling between Brighton, London, Lancashire (home), Edinburgh and Dundee.

This does NOT include visits by car to Wales (approx 200 miles), Momentum (approx 404 miles), and a visit to family in Northern Ireland by plane (approx 878 miles)

So since the end of July I have travelled (approximately) 6089 miles without leaving the UK.

Seeing as the UK is about 700 miles long this is quite an achievement in three and a half months.

I think I need a rest… so I’m travelling to Paris on Tues…typical.