A year like no other - and we are proud to stand with each other as paediatricians

This is hugely satisfying specialty, but it will always be very hard work. In 2020 we've had to show extraordinary resilience, and we now need to think about how we approach the coming winter and continue to support each other. Camilla and Hannah introduce the College's plans for a retention strategy that looks at specific areas uniquely problematical to paediatricians.
Hannah Jacob and Camilla Kingdon
Hannah Jacob and Camilla Kingdon

Collectively, we have a huge amount to be proud of!  It’s been a year like no other and yet we are all still standing and already pulling together trying to get our clinical services back up to full steam, while preparing carefully for winter and all that it will bring. We’ve supported each other as well as the children and families we look after through terrifyingly uncertain times. Many of us have been deployed to clinical areas away from our own and all of us have been required to work in new ways.  So, we are extremely proud to be paediatricians…

We are all capable of remarkable things... however, there is a limit to how long this can continue

And yet, that pride and huge optimism is tinged with a measure of fear and anxiety. The extraordinary resilience and sheer hard work we’ve all had to undertake comes at a price. When the adrenaline induced by a crisis is surging, we are all capable of remarkable things and can muster huge amounts of energy. However, there is a limit to how long this can continue, and so we need to take stock and think about how we approach the forthcoming winter, and then beyond.

It seems no coincidence that 2020 has been a year of particular focus on racial inequalities and structural racism in this country. People are tired and emotionally wrung out. They have seen Black Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues terrified of the risk of COVID-19 infection, or even worse seen colleagues die of it.

So – we need to think about our specialty and consider ways of making it the best possible career path for doctors who love clinical medicine, enjoy working in teams and want the satisfaction of supporting not just a child but their whole family through an illness. We need to be cognisant of the current environment in which we work and think carefully how we can support each other better. 

Once again, we asked people to talk about why they #ChoosePaediatrics and you’ll see more of our work on this over the coming weeks. Similarly, it’s extremely encouraging to see our improved ST1 recruitment fill rates!  A lot of people have worked really hard to make this happen and it’s brilliant to see how it has paid off. 

However, now we need to make sure that paediatrics really is everything it says on the tin…. We have to live up to the reputation we’ve described in all our talks, promotional videos and careers events. 

[Our retention strategy is] an evolving project that specifically addresses some of the issues that make working as a paediatrician so difficult

Rest assured, we are not complacent at the College and we are thrilled to have helped put together the RCPCH Retention strategy and we’ll be saying more on the new strategy in a few weeks. This will provide the framework for an evolving project that specifically addresses some of the issues that make working as a paediatrician so difficult and may be the reason why some consider leaving the specialty. We cannot cure all the ills of the NHS and modern medicine, but we can focus on specific areas that are uniquely problematical to paediatricians. To lead this project, we have created a new role at the College of an Officer for Retention and this senior paediatrician will work with a variety of groups to tackle this subject. 

Retention crosses into many different areas.  And so we will work with:

  1. Education and Training to identify specific areas of challenge for trainees. For instance, many trainees want more flexibility in training with options to take time out and to work in allied specialties, so there is a distinct part of our Shape of Training plans that addresses this subject.
  2. Education Provision to consider areas where RCPCH can develop new and improved training to support learning in specific areas.  For example, we know that we now look after many children with complex and often life-limiting medical conditions and this is challenging our communication skills in ways we weren’t previously conscious of. There are plans afoot to develop bespoke training for advanced paediatric communication.
  3. Membership to develop more regional College activity, to support local networks of paediatricians of all levels both educationally and pastorally.
  4. Membership and Education to support our International Medical Graduates more proactively, especially in helping these doctors settle into UK working life.  
  5. The whole College in embedding and developing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan over the next two years and beyond.

These are just a few of the strands of work we are planning or are already doing. However, the depth and breadth of this work relies on us all generating ideas and working together.  All of us can take part in this important work. Many of our members are already doing exciting things in their own hospitals and we are keen to hear about them so we can share these more widely.  It would be fantastic to showcase great retention work so if you have an idea, please let us know at careers.campaign@rcpch.ac.uk!

This has to be a collective plan that starts now but continues well into the future.

Paediatrics is a great and hugely satisfying specialty, but it will always be very hard work. Let’s work together to come up with a whole range of strategies to support each other.