Priyen Shah – Paediatric Trainee
Su Laurent – Paediatric Consultant
Rota gaps, service cuts and record patient numbers have made working in the NHS more stressful than ever. As doctors we train for years to treat our patients, yet we are surprisingly bad at looking after ourselves and our colleagues. Paediatric services are being affected more than most, with a drastic decline in doctors applying to paediatric training and an increasing number of unfilled posts.
With this in mind, we organised Passion for Paediatrics with one simple aim – to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of paediatric trainees and help them manage the strain associated with working for the NHS in the current climate.
First, we highlighted the services available to trainees finding it difficult to cope such as the Practitioner Health Programme and the Tea and Empathy movement that was formed in the wake of the suicide of a doctor during the implementation of the new junior doctors’ contract. Professor Clare Gerada, medical director of the Practitioner Health Programme and former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, shared some of her experiences in identifying and supporting doctors in difficulty.
We then focused on examples of morale-boosting projects from across the NHS, such as ‘Barnet Bopping‘, a project utilising dance lessons to improve the working relationship between doctors, nurses and patients, was demonstrated by Dr Guddi Singh and Karelle Evans. ‘Balint Groups’ led by Dr Lucy Fullerton and Dr Susannah Pye showed how peer-based discussions can help doctors work through difficult and emotional cases in a supportive and confidential environment.
Finally, we heard about ‘Learning from Excellence’, a project by Dr Adrian Plunkett at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which has been introduced at Barnet General Hospital by Dr Dominic Fenn and Dr Patricia Lutalo in an effort to highlight and share examples of excellence in healthcare practice. The hope is that others will be inspired to initiate similar projects in their own departments.To finish, we highlighted ways that doctors can protect themselves. Dr Michael Farquhar outlined the importance of sleep hygiene, especially on night shifts while Dr Caroline Fertleman, Dr Serena Haywood and Dr Reina Popat Shah showed the benefits of cultivating mindfulness and creativity in everyday life.
The feedback was incredibly positive and we had a number of requests to make this an annual event.
Specific: To support the mental and emotional wellbeing of paediatric trainees and help them manage the strain associated with working for the NHS in the current climate.
Measurable: Feedback during and after the event.
Achievable: The project requires collaboration with paediatric trainees and consultants, speakers, caterers, venue managers and sponsors. It also needs to attract sufficient attendees to make it financially viable.
Relevant: In the current climate, it is more important than ever that doctors have the tools and support they require to manage the physical, emotional and psychological burden associated with working in the NHS. If we can master this, trainees will not only manage, but will thrive.
Time: In line with sponsorship requirements, the event had to be held before the end of the tax year.
Progress made: What have you learned from doing this?
Event management – the importance of setting a realistic budget and timescale. Early liaison with venue managers and caters. Effective advertisement of the event and the power of word-of-mouth recommendation,.
Leadership – The importance of early delegation with clear, well defined roles and an effective way to keep up to date with the progress of the team.
What’s your take home message?
If we can look after and support ourselves and our colleagues, we will have more capacity to care for our patients and improve their care.