LIKE any dispatches from the trenches, their stories are both shocking and disturbing.
As the immediate front line of the health service, junior doctors never get a chance to reveal what goes on behind the scenes in our public hospitals.
They are usually too busy and too frazzled to sit down and chat about the long hours they have invariably worked that week; too discreet and professional to frighten anyone with their concerns that patient safety might be at risk; and too worn out and dispirited to mention their fears for their own health. So when junior doctors around the country took to the picket lines to call for reform, their visibility and candour was so unusual that it made everyone sit up and listen. To a man and woman, they all spoke of the same issues.
Some talked of sometimes working a 72-hour long shift and of regularly working shifts of 37 hours. They admitted mistakes had happened – thankfully minor ones. More than anything, they spoke of their deep hope for change.
Q THE MATER, DUBLIN
At the Mater Hospital, even advanced pregnancy did not prevent Dr Grainne O'Kane (31, right) from lending her support to the campaign. The trainee medical oncologist, who is 36 weeks pregnant, said she had made a minor medication error due to tiredness earlier in her career. There were no consequences, but she felt a great deal of guilt. "It is a surreal experience," she said. "I have made many sacrifices for my career. Doctors always put patients first."
Q ST VINCENT'S DUBLIN
At St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, more than 130 doctors went on strike throughout the day, with a pile of pizza boxes delivered by supportive patients giving sustenance.
Judi Lynch (28), from Greystones, Co Wicklow, an SHO in the Hepatology department, said she definitely felt patients were being put at risk due to longer hours.
She also felt the effects on her own health. "You're in a low mood and when you get time off, you spend most of it sleeping," she said.
Aidan Jennings (32), from Co Mayo, an SHO in the Respiratory Department regularly works 36 hours on a one in nine basis.
"You're not thinking straight," he said. "It's the equivalent of having alcohol levels in the blood."
Q CORK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
At Cork University Hospital, Dr Deirdre Morley (29) and Dr Deirdre Fitzgerald (29) warned only urgent recruitment would ease the pressure which has reached breaking point for junior doctors.
Both confirmed having worked 34-hour shifts over the past year and to seeing minor mistakes made by exhausted junior doctors.
In one instance, a junior doctor was so exhausted after working a 30-plus hour shift that she crashed her car on the way home, luckily escaping injury.
Q OUR LADY OF LOURDES, DROGHEDA
At Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, paediatric doctor Siobhan Walsh said she came back from Australia in 2011 because she believes in the training system here but warned she would not see herself staying if the current system continues.
"It has been in our contract not to work these hours since 2010 but we still are. We are maxed out," said surgeon Dr Ahmed Kharief.
He works up to 37 hours and asked whether patients attending the hospital "want to be seen" by someone who has worked the previous 30 hours.
Q UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, LIMERICK
At University Hospital Limerick, over 80 doctors went on strike. Dr Emma Jennings said she felt she had been let down by the Government and the HSE who have a "legal obligation to let us work legal hours".
"It is time to buck up and make us a legal working force that is safe for patients and safe for ourselves," she said.
Dr Niall Kelly said they had been maintaining the picket as well as providing contingency arrangements agreed between the HSE and the IMO.
A HSE spokesperson said 325 procedures covering surgery, out-patient appointments and clinics across all six hospitals in the UL group were cancelled yesterday as a result of the strike.