Balancing family life with training: how it worked for me

Raj Kainth explains why he started working less than full time to spend more time with his family, and how it has made him a better doctor.

It was a very easy decision to move from full-time working to less than full time (LTFT) in the middle of my ST6 (specialty training) year: it coincided with the birth of my daughter. I love working with children - it's why I became a paediatrician - and I wanted to share the moments of her growing up.

At work I was more energised, more focused and generally happier... it has been challenging too

Working LTFT has meant I can devote more energy to different parts of my life. With reduced out of hours shifts, I was at home for more evenings and weekends, and my three fixed working days a week I always knew in advance when I could go to baby classes and and kids' theatre shows. My wife returned to a four-day working week and so we always had a family day once a week.

Less time at work also meant I wasn’t exhausted after several long shifts and out of hours in the week. This had a positive impact at work as I was more energised, more focused and generally happier. That said, it has been challenging too, especially when less clinical time has meant reduced continuity of care and on occasions being on the back foot when I am expected to know what has happened to patients on my days off.

I needed to ensure I was proactive for things like supervised learning events, scheduling clinic time and, sometimes, working on projects outside of work time. The first job I had when working LTFT was in a department I knew very well and staff with whom I felt incredibly comfortable, so this naturally made the transition easier. When I switched to a new department after a year, it took me much longer to get up to speed with some processes and meeting other staff members; even several months in, I was still meeting new people so it was hard to feel completely settled. 

My biggest learning has been about me. I have had to find new ways of working at work, trying to maximise time at home and making the most of time off. As my daughter is older, responsibilities have changed, and I am still able to be involved in nursery drop-offs, homework and bedtime.

I often bring in my experience when speaking to parents of patients

Becoming a parent has also given me new insights into some of the challenges the parents of our patients face. That fear that your child is unwell is indescribable, and so one of the big changes has been to spend more time in appreciating this aspect of paediatrics: the need to explain things and listen to the concerns of parents. I often bring in some of my experience when speaking to parents let them know that it is normal and quite right that they have lots of questions and worries.

I believe that my role as a paediatrician is to understand the perspective of parents as well as caring for the child, and being a father has helped me see this a little more clearly. One of the biggest aspect of paediatrics for me is the emotions parents show and so at times, when I do spend time with families and can sense their emotions, it can be challenging. Yet, this is also now become one of the most rewarding parts of my job. 

Often, I am asked if it has been hard because of the financial constraints; I answer it reflecting on my experience. I wouldn’t exchange all the experience, better health, happiness, more time with family and a bit more freedom if someone offered me £20-30k for a year.

We may have to make financial sacrifices but being at home with family is what matters to me.

Find out more about how you can get involved in RCPCH global child health programmes, and read our guidance on working less than full time.

Interested in applying for a post in paediatrics? Read our guidance for ST1 and ST2 posts.