A good taste of what this amazing world offers - variety in paediatrics

Dr Maria Neocleous has recently finished her first year of paediatric specialty training. She tells us about these first 12 months - getting support and feedback from colleagues, developing academic experience and considering the endless opportunities in her future.
Dr Maria Neocleous, trainee paediatrician

How time flies! This time last year I was attending my first on-call in a tertiary neonatal centre, being very scared and unsure of what to expect. Twelve months later, I am ready to embark on another six-month journey, this time in a tertiary paediatric centre. Still scared (not as much as last year!), but eager to absorb all the knowledge and challenges my ST2 year in paediatrics is about to bring! 

Every new beginning has its challenges. I was fortunate in securing a training post in a  deanery that I have worked in previously. So my biggest fear at the time was whether I would perform up to the level expected of a ‘fresher’ specialty trainee and serve as a valuable member of my clinical team. 

People were open with each other, esteeming a strong team spirit, and showing respect for each member’s contribution to the care of our patients

My colleagues, often the more senior members of the team, took the time to provide feedback and support me in areas where I felt I was underperforming. They cherished my achievements, whether it was as simple as a cannula insertion in a preterm neonate, or more important stuff, such as passing some of my exams and ARCP (Annual Review of Competence Progression). People were open with each other, esteeming a strong team spirit, and showing respect for each member’s contribution to the care of our patients; especially during challenging times such as the national lockdowns and in cases where the clinical team was understaffed as many colleagues were unwell or self-isolating.

After 12 months of new experiences, various challenges (both personal and academic), rewarding smiles and big tears I can say that I feel most grateful to be part of this specialty. As many of you have, I am sure, I've had some loved ones affected by COVID-19; just before my first set of exams, my grandma fell ill with COVID-19 and ended up intubated in ICU. Being miles away from the rest of my family and worrying that I may never see my grandma again, I greatly valued my colleagues’ empathy who went above and beyond in supporting me at work while all this was happening.

What never fails to fascinate me within paediatrics is the endless opportunities available in exploring new fields both within research and clinical practice. The number of sub-specialties available, as well as the opportunity to go into other paediatric- related specialties such as Genetics and Paediatric Haemato-Oncology, offers trainees a great amount of flexibility. Our training structure and the new Progress curriculum allows trainees to explore such opportunities and choose what best suits them.

My first year in paediatrics has... allowed me to grow as a doctor and as a person

I am also grateful to have spent three months of my ST1 in academia, designing and leading my first study and hence learning about the challenges around conducting research and balancing academic and clinical work.  

My first year in paediatrics has definitely changed me; allowed me to grow as a doctor and as a person, face some of the difficulties of being a full-time trainee and find ways to balance my clinical, academic and personal time. 

I have a long, long way to go until qualifying, but my first year, has given me a good taste of what this amazing world of paediatric training may involve! I look forward to learning more, doing more and navigate myself into the various fields of paediatrics.

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Dr Maria Neocleous is a trainee paediatrician in Liverpool. @maria1neocleous