Looking back, moving forward - reflections from a Chair

As Dr Laura Kelly prepares to move on from her post as Chair of the Trainees Oversight Committee and Network - a period in which so much was done virtually - she considers the group's many acheivements.
Dr Laura Kelly

If you had asked me back in 2017 when I joined the then Trainees Committee (now Trainee Network and Trainee Oversight Committee) as the Trainee Representative for West Midlands, what I would be doing in five years’ time, I don’t think I would have imagined that I’d be reflecting on my experiences of chairing this group of enthusiastic and engaged people during a pandemic and for the most part doing so virtually.

I have loved my time, first as a regional rep and then as Chair. But the time has come for me to step down as Chair. The nominations for my successor are in, and you have a great selection of people standing for election – do make sure you vote, it is easy to do with online voting and you should have received a link in your inbox. [Update - voting is now closed]

Chairing a committee during a period of almost exclusive virtual working has had its challenges, but has enabled the committee to become much more inclusive of the whole UK, beyond just the regional representatives, as it becomes easier for everyone to participate. And I hope this will remain the case as we keep most of our meetings virtual. I’m really pleased to say we will be making applying for roles on the Trainee Network and Trainee Oversight Committee clearer and more transparent, with a revamped application process soon to launch, which maps much more closely to the aims set out within the College’s EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) strategy. Of course, having our meetings virtually means it is incredibly easy for us to welcome observers, so do get in touch with training.services@rcpch.ac.uk if you’d like to observe one of our Trainee Network meetings.

That has now become not just what do [trainees] think, but what are we as a College going to do about it?

The shift to virtual working mirrors so much of what we have all experienced at home and at work over the last few years – huge changes to the ways we do things and having to adapt to these. It is easy to lose our boundaries in this world of increasing accessibility and availability, but I hope some of the work of the Trainee Network has helped to support trainees in finding balance. We updated the Trainee Charter to increase recommendations on SPA (Supporting Professional Activities) time to a minimum of 8 hours a month for ST1-3 trainees and 16 hours a month for ST4 and higher trainees, to carry out portfolio, audit, quality improvement and leadership activities. Alongside this we have strengthened our support of ensuring trainees are working in sustainable ways, which enable them to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

The Network has also taken the responses to a nationwide survey we conducted and put together guidance,  endorsed by the Resus Council UK, with clear principles of how to induct clinicians from a variety of backgrounds (eg Foundation, GP, locally employed doctors, etc.) in neonatal resuscitation and life support. Ensuring a minimum level of induction for all clinicians, regardless of prior skills and access to NLS (Newborn Life Support) training, is better for babies and is better for clinicians, in what we were hearing was an area of significant worry and concern for clinicians new to neonatal care.

Of course, RCPCH Progress+ has been and remains a key area of focus for us as a Network and we have had a key role in developing guidance for the implementation and transition to Progress+, making sure we pick up on areas that we know are really important for trainees. We also contribute to an ever evolving Progress+ FAQs, so do check them out if you have any questions, and remember you can always contact progressplus@rcpch.ac.uk if local information sources don’t have the answer.

Alongside the work of the Network, as Chair I spend a lot of time making sure there is a trainee voice in the ‘virtual’ room when decisions are being made at various levels of the College. My predecessor Hannah Jacob remarked at the end of her tenure that it was exciting that the College was moving towards always asking, "what do the trainees think?". And I think that has now become not just what do they think, but what are we as a College going to do about it?

There has never been a better time to make your voice heard, so vote for the new Chair and next time you see an advert for a role at the College, don’t hold back, just go for it!

On 25 July 2022, Dr Emma Dyer was elected as Chair of the TOC.