Are they anywhere close to the reality, though? There is such a variety in my work, so I can spend time having quiet conversations with elderly people, helping them understand what they’re going through, figuring out the best way they can go home and not fall over, for example – that’s pretty much never shown in dramas. But I work in a trauma centre, and there are nights that feel like you’re in a TV show, there’s just trauma after trauma or sick patient after sick patient and it sometimes feels like what you see on shows like ER.
I did wonder how much time real-life emergency doctors have for romantic subplots at work. Sometimes you see that. My husband’s a doctor, and we met through work. There’s lots of relationships that form through meetings at work. When you’re a junior doctor you’re spending huge amounts of time at work, so your social circle becomes heavily focused on your work and who you work with, so I think it’s natural you end up meeting someone.
While shooting the show, does having cameras in the room get in the way of your work? The first day that the cameras are on you it feels strange and you think, I’m being watched. But it was amazing how quickly you forget that they are there. What I likened it to was, we regularly have medical students with us, so you’re walking around and there’s someone with you all the time, asking questions. The TV cameras became like a medical student, following you round, seeing what you’re doing, asking a question or two. So it’s just easy to forget that they’re there: they just become part of the furniture.
You see things in your work that most of us hope never to see. How hard is it, when you go home, to leave your work at work? I think when you’re in the moment looking after horrific things, you’re well-trained to be able to keep to task and ensure you’re doing absolutely everything. When you leave, you do think about cases. It’s normal to think about some of the things you’ve seen, and I think having my colleagues at work – nurses, doctors, and my husband – to talk to is really important, so that if I need to debrief I’ve got people around to support me.
But despite what I see, you go through a training process that’s long – medical school then six years of specialist training on top of all the junior doctor years, so you learn coping mechanisms and you learn how to look after your wellbeing. It’s just part of the job, and to be honest, my job’s just brilliant. It’s well worth it, it’s an amazing job.
What comes across on the show is that you do seem really positive, and love what you’re doing. I love my job. It’s real life: I see vulnerable people who are facing the worst day of their life, and to be able to be there and help them is an absolute privilege. That might sound cliched, but it’s truly sincere, it’s just wonderful. And you see everything: you see all walks of life, rich people, poor people, it’s a real leveller: everybody matters.
You have four children. Being an emergency doctor and having four children – is that a bit much? I think going from one to two children is hard, and then the more you put in, it doesn’t matter, you’re just living chaos anyway. I could’ve had six I reckon. In a lot of ways my home life reflects the chaos of work. We aren’t one of those organised families: we just roll with it and each day brings new challenges. Sometimes we don’t even know who’s babysitting that afternoon, but everything seems to fall into place. We’ve not left a child somewhere we shouldn’t as yet.
Apart from wrangling the family, what do you like to do when you’re not saving lives? I love being outside, I have this endless drive to be outdoors. I grew up on the Murray River, our house backed onto the bush, so my early years were out in the bush as much as possible. My kids get sick of it, but I’m always saying come on, let’s go for a ride or a walk or whatever. Wherever it is we’re always trying to get out of the city and go for bushwalks or bike rides or whatever. It drives them mad but once they’re out there they love it.