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AIBU to practice medicine with self-harm scars?

(134 Posts)
OmarComin Sun 04-Sep-16 16:16:16

I am a medical student. I suffered from recurrent depression as a child (12 onwards) and have forearms covered in white self-harm scars. I haven't cut myself since I was 19 and am now 27.

NHS policy is "bare below the elbows". My scars are like a network that covers every inch of skin. All flat and faded as much as they ever will be.

They are instantly recognisable as what they are, to anyone who has any familiarity with DSH.

I have tried camouflage make-up, but it rubs off, and is apparently an infection control risk.

There's nothing I can really do about them, but I want to help people. So, Mumsnet, please tell me how you feel: would you want me as your doctor if you saw my arms? Would you see me as less capable of taking care of you?

Thank you.

DoodleCat Sun 04-Sep-16 16:18:27

Nope, wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

PitchFork Sun 04-Sep-16 16:19:24

wouldn't bother me.

TinklyLittleLaugh Sun 04-Sep-16 16:19:27

As someone whose daughter has cut herself in the past, but has been fine for a couple of years, I honestly wouldn't think anything of it. In fact I'd probably have the expectation that you were more empathetic than most doctors.

spicyfajitas Sun 04-Sep-16 16:19:29

Yes absolutely I would be happy for you to treat me, as long as you were professional and showed confidence. I really wouldn't give old, faded scars a second thought.

Bubblebloodypop Sun 04-Sep-16 16:20:25

Nope, wouldn't be an issue at all.

AnchorDownDeepBreath Sun 04-Sep-16 16:20:39

It wouldn't bother me at all.

My psychiatrist had self harm scars. I didn't notice them until she mentioned them during a session - after that I recalled that she used to touch her lower arms a lot but despite them being bare, I hadn't really paid attention to them. This type of thing tends to be much more noticeable once you know it's there.

If anything - and being really honest, I don't think I'd notice - I think I'd feel a bit reassured to talk about mental health issues etc. It wouldn't affect me otherwise.

(If it matters, I've never self-harmed)

CMOTDibbler Sun 04-Sep-16 16:21:05

I'd be totally happy to have you treat me. In fact I'd think you probably had a lot more compassion and understanding than many doctors tbh

TheRollingCrone Sun 04-Sep-16 16:21:30

Wouldn't bother me, Tbh I always look at faces. Your scars show you dealt and been through your own stuff, surely that can only be a big plus in medicine?

Good luck to you flowers

loosechange Sun 04-Sep-16 16:23:15

People will pay less attention to you than you think, if that makes sense.

If you look back to the Iast time you saw your GP, can you remember anything distinctive about their appearance?

OmarComin Sun 04-Sep-16 16:23:17

Thank you for replying, friendly Mumsnet users. I'm genuinely overwhelmed by your positive responses. I was bracing myself for the worst. You've given me the confidence to go out on my first placement without trying to hide away. smile

roasted Sun 04-Sep-16 16:23:22

If I could see them easily because you were wearing "bare below the elbows", I would assume that it was in the past and you were now comfortable with who you were. It wouldn't occur to me it was NHS policy to not cover them up. It therefore wouldn't make me doubt your capability.

I might feel differently if it looked like you were trying to hide the scars and failed - it might come across that there were current scars you were also trying to hide.

bitingcat Sun 04-Sep-16 16:23:27

Wouldn't bother me at all, in fact having suffered from depression myself I would feel that a doctor with visible scars would be more likely to understand my own difficulties. All the best with the remainder of your training.

SvalbardianPenguin Sun 04-Sep-16 16:25:25

It wouldn't bother me at all, even assuming that I noticed. You will judge yourself far more harshly than others will - we're all our own worst critics aren't we?

specialsubject Sun 04-Sep-16 16:25:46

joining the chorus - no issue at all. Even if I did notice.

and we need more doctors - so thank you.

quicklydecides Sun 04-Sep-16 16:26:09

What area of medicine do you plan to enter?
You will want to leave your past behind you and you won't want questions about your personal life when you reach a senior stage.

ApocalypseSlough Sun 04-Sep-16 16:27:16

It wouldn't bother me. Because I'd assume you'd been 'screened' and trained and are aware of the need to look after yourself. I'd be anxious to see a therapist, not a psychiatrist, with SH scars as I'm less confident that they'd have adequate clinical supervision.
star to you for getting on to the course and getting through whatever triggered the SH. Do you think you might specialise in MH?

RunningLulu Sun 04-Sep-16 16:29:39

My GP slit his wrists at uni & still has the scars. He never covers them up & the one time I mentioned them he told me his whole story. I think you should be proud of them - they represent a dark time in your life that you pushed yourself through. Not everybody gets through self harm you shoild feel damn proud of yourself that you did.

Hobbitch Sun 04-Sep-16 16:30:11

When I notice self-harm scars on others my first reaction is to feel sorry for what they went through in the past, and admirative that they have overcome whatever it was.

If you were my doctor I would trust you based on the fact that you clearly have all the required qualifications to be in that profession. What goes on, or went on, in your private life would be irrelevant.

Best of luck with your studies!

BlancheDuBois2 Sun 04-Sep-16 16:30:42

Wouldn't phase me at all. In fact, I think I'd be more likely to be honest about mh symptoms with you if I noticed them.

Anyone who minds you treating them should probably reassess their attitude to mental health problems.

carefreeeee Sun 04-Sep-16 16:31:15

Most people probably wouldn't notice, and anyway there are doctors with all kinds of scars.
People will judge you on how confident you are and how kind you are!

OmarComin Sun 04-Sep-16 16:31:53

I'd like to work in psychiatry, it's where my heart has always been. My mum is a counsellor and I grew up with an awareness of how vulnerable those with mental health problems are.

As a patient myself, I've had some excellent and some terrible psychiatrists. I was an in-patient for a month at one stage and built strong relationships with my fellow patients. I also realised that I was comparatively privileged, because most were from very poor backgrounds or had no family at all. It made me want to help.

I also want to work with addiction and drug abuse because I had two partners who were drug addicts and have always felt that I connect/understand those struggling with addiction. But when they're my patients there's that distance, and I can actually help, whereas in my personal life it was codependent and I wasn't helping.

I've been to many conferences about psychiatry and every time I go to an event it cements my desire further. I've always been around those with MH problems, for whatever reason. My friend committed suicide at 18. I know the job is tough and there's tricky ethical decisions like having to section under the mental health act, but I feel there's a space for me somewhere amongst all the sub-specialties, whether it's learning disability psych, paeds, general adult or addictions. smile

Coconutty Sun 04-Sep-16 16:32:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ImperialBlether Sun 04-Sep-16 16:32:05

I would think you'd be a very empathetic doctor, tbh.

I do think you'd be better to be prepared for questions at first and have something prepared in advance, such as, "Oh are you looking at my scars? I had a terrible time with depression when I was young. Luckily I'm fine now." And then go straight into a question to take their mind off it.

It would be very sad if you felt shame about the scars of your unhappiness - by being positive now you would give everyone who is depressed or who knows someone who is the chance to realise there will be a happier future.

Lunar1 Sun 04-Sep-16 16:32:56

You won't be the first or last doctor to carry the same scars. I've worked with a few. You will get a few patients/relative who will comment or ask, so I'd think about what your answer will be so you don't get caught off guard by it.

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