Paediatric training in “Norn Iron”

Dr Christine Sloan is an ST4 in Northern Ireland, where training experiences include "endless opportunities... to fulfill our aspirations".
Christine Sloan profile picture, outside and smiling

If someone told me that tomorrow I had to go to, for example, London to continue my paediatric training, I honestly don’t think I’d be able to cope. I suppose, for example, a London trainee might think, “I’m not going to 'sleepy' Northern Ireland”. 

However, training in our six counties of Northern Ireland (or as we might say, "Norn Iron") is fantastic.

We have the main tertiary centres in Belfast - the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (where I currently work) and The Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital with our NICU and PICU for the whole of Northern Ireland at this site. These hospitals contain the sickest children and neonates in the country. Then we have six District General Hospitals, where absolutely anything can arrive through the front door.

All these hospitals are incredibly busy. And there are many of those dreaded shifts where you don’t sit down for five minutes. We manage extremely unwell patients in these peripheral hospitals and sometimes have a two-hour transfer journey with an unwell child to get them to Belfast. In our Tertiary Centre, we typically only have one Registrar and SHO on call during any out of hour periods, with responsibilities over multiple wards and an A&E.

I wouldn’t do my training anywhere else. The delivery of training is outstanding, along with all the opportunities.

The major plus of training here is the “Happy Family Approach.” We all know each other inside out, so it is very personable. Many of us have been together at university and have grown up through the training years. A referral to the “big scary” tertiary centre isn’t half as nerve-wracking on the phone when you are talking to a doctor you know and can have a friendly chat with. We even have an “all NI WhatsApp group,” brought in by one of the Registrars, where we organise social events, and panic about ARCP together. No work chat/rota gap talk allowed!

Another exceptional aspect of training in Northern Ireland is the educational opportunities. There are regular regional teaching, simulation sessions, PICU tele links and journal clubs, with trainees widely encouraged to participate. This probably happens across the water too... but when life in general is on a smaller scale, I feel these sessions are more easily organised and attended. (Plus we like to catch up together, which is always appreciated!) 

Regional guidelines/presentations are very doable and easy to get off the ground, with fantastic support and guidance. Our future work desires are nurtured along by our Head of School and supervisors, with endless opportunities given to allow us to fulfil our aspirations.

I wouldn’t do my training anywhere else. The delivery of training is outstanding, along with all the opportunities. But most of all: it’s the camaraderie!