As I come to the end of my fellowship at the Academy, it’s time for me to put away my cufflinks, find my stethoscope and roll up my sleeves so that I can go back to being a ‘proper doctor’. I received my rota with two months notice, was offered time off in lieu for doing mandatory modules and the new starter rigmarole has been painless (so far). So maybe things have improved?
Of course, I’m a bag of nerves thinking about my first on-call, my first set of nights and meeting my new bosses. But, I can take comfort knowing that should any problems arise, I’m well informed about who I can turn to. It should be the norm knowing how and who to escalate to, for both clinical and personal times of crises. Yet the GMC survey revealed that a third of trainees aren’t sure who they should approach for concerns about their health and wellbeing.
The irony of being a doctor is you work tirelessly and often thanklessly trying to improve the health and wellbeing of others, without thinking about your own health and wellbeing. As the junior doctor’s dispute highlighted to great effect, morale is low and the workforce crises we continue to face can lead to a spiral of decline when it comes to our own welfare.
The fellowship has given me an opportunity to be catapulted to the top table of many national initiatives. It’s clear to me there is certainly the desire and probably the enthusiasm to make being a doctor, the fun, challenging and rewarding career it should be.
I’ve been involved in many national initiatives that aim to improve morale, work conditions and the support available for doctors. The Enhancing Junior Doctors Working Lives, the Academy’s Trainees Doctors Group and the People Plan aim to do just that. But there’s a gap between the initiatives being led by these groups and front-line clinicians seeing the impact. Of course, delivering change takes time, but there are some quick wins that could improve morale and wellbeing.
An initiative I led was the Academy’s Support For Doctors tool. It brings together resources that are available for doctors in times of crises. It can be confusing knowing when to speak to the Freedom to Speak Guardian, or where to turn to for confidential medical advice. This tool provides resources for a broad range of services; from support for complaints, fitness to practice hearings, financial support and a whole host of other areas. But, as with all resources it’s only useful if people know about it. So email, tweet it, and share it with colleagues, as the importance of health and wellbeing cannot be overstated.
Dr Dev Chauhan was the National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow for the Academy and NHS England and is a SpR Care of the Elderly and General Internal Medicine
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