I qualified in 1994 from Southampton Medical School. My undergraduate experience had confirmed that I wanted to do paediatrics. In particular, I found that working collaboratively with children, young people, their families and the healthcare teams that worked with them, inspired me and gave me energy.
At the end of medical school, I said to myself that when I was a consultant: (1) I would not work in London; (2) I would work in a DGH; and 3) I would not do research in training. I am now pleased to say that I failed in all of these aspirations!
My only real piece of advice to all future (or current) colleagues is to look out for opportunities as you progress through your career. They will arise, and those that do best in life are the ones who not only identify the opportunity, but then make an active decision to pursue it or not.
Here are a few examples of my opportunities taken:
- After my first two years of SHO posts, I realised that the two areas that scared me the most were hearts and kidneys. So in my third year, I did a six-month paediatric cardiology/respiratory and PICU post and also a renal post. I now enjoy both hearts and kidneys!
- I spent a year working with the paediatric and neonatal retrieval team in Sydney, Australia. I have seen most of New South Wales from the helicopter window! That inclues the Blue Mountains in spring time: magical.
- I was offered and accepted a research opportunity that was initially going to be an MD but then needed three years, so became a PhD.
- I was offered and accepted a locum consultant post at the hospital I then wanted to work at, and then got my substantive post in 2007.
- I came out stronger after twice surviving cancer and seeing my baby (nearly 18 years ago) being intubated and ventilated for PPHN and meconium aspiration. My daughter was cared for by some of the best doctors I have ever met. I did say to myself, with no hair from chemo and outside the NICU, that if God wanted to give me empathy, He, She or It could have just sent me on a course! Nevertheless, these experiences have helped me care for children and families over the last 18 years.
Our patients don’t need to say thank you – just a smile from them tells us more than a thousand words
Paediatrics, like all specialties, has been through a very difficult five years. We had to witness the injustice of the Hadiza Bawa Garba case, the junior doctors' contracts debacle, the COVID-19 pandemic... and we're now preparing for one of the busiest winters for paediatrics. Despite all this, my colleagues smile and support each other. We love our job, working with the whole team and in particular the amazing junior doctor team who we always learn from.
As I have always said, in paediatrics, our patients don’t need to say thank you – just a smile from them tells us more than a thousand words. In which other specialty could I start my patient interaction by asking, “Are you eating, drinking, weeing, pooing, smiling, laughing and sleeping”? (Trust me, I really do say that!)
So, paediatrics has been through a journey, but last year we had 100% recruitment from round 1 of specialty training (ST) 1-4 posts for the first time in over five years. This is a great place to start the next five years, building on our celebration of diversity and inclusivity in all that we do.
If we embody the values of the Trust I work in, we will be successful in all that we do going forward: To be a kind, respectful team.
Dr Simon Broughton is a General Paediatrician based in London and RCPCH Officer for Recruitment. He's on Twitter @broughton7777