Shaping our future working lives: what you told us

In February 2020, we asked members to join us in a survey about the future of paediatrics in the UK to inform our Paediatrics 2040 project. Here, Dr Judith van der Voort, Chair of the project’s working lives group, discusses some of the themes that were shared.
Dr Judith van der Voort

Despite information being rather biased towards a single subject over the last nine months, most of you hopefully will be aware of the College’s Paediatrics 2040 initiative, which has continued to run and is due to publish its findings in February 2021. I would like to share a little flavour of your thoughts from the survey we ran earlier in the year, before the pandemic.

We invited our UK members to take part in a thought experiment and join us in our journey to the future. We are very grateful that over 300 of you from across the UK took the time to share your views on what paediatrics and our working lives should look like in 20 years.

When we asked you, our members, what you want your working lives to look like in 2040, two clear themes emerged: work life balance and flexibility. Other secondary themes also emerged, and I will briefly touch on these too: staffing, clinical skills and the atmosphere in which we work.

Responses to the question “In 2040, what is the top thing you want to be different about the working lives of paediatricians?"

 

Work Life Balance

So many of you wanted a better quality of life, healthier working hours and less night shifts. Some felt that less than full time (LTFT) training and working should be the norm, with childcare available on site. So many of you want a better balance between doing a fantastic and interesting job and having family time, time with our children and partners and time for other interests.

Flexibility

Flexibility was another very strong theme: you want flexibility in the way we work, in paediatric training and in the consultant/SAS doctor career path. Working in a multi-disciplinary team and having seamless relationships with colleagues outside our teams was high on the agenda. You want our relationships with primary care, CAMHS, education and social care to thrive. There should be a strong focus on public health in paediatrics and this should empower our children and parents to be able to look after their own health, where possible.

It was felt that trainees should obtain skills not just in clinical medicine, but in IT, genetics, research and teaching. Trainees do not enjoy the night shift system or moving every six months from city to town and back. You would like this changed. Experiencing different specialties outside paediatrics was felt to aid training. LTFT working should be universally available and catered for.

There was a strong focus on flexibility within the SAS and consult career, emphasising the different stages in a paediatrician’s career. Suggestions included, no acute on call after the age of 55 years, having the flexibility for a secondment, a sabbatical, a post CCT fellowships, or even doing an MBA and getting into business consultancy! You would like to see a portfolio career, not one size fits all.

Staffing and recruitment

Not surprisingly you would like a future without rota gaps. If there is a drive for over-recruitment, with an anticipation of drop-out, we will have full rotas! This will help enormously with retention of staff. You also wanted an increase in the employment of nurse practitioners and physician associates in the future.

Clinical skills

You would like paediatricians in 2040 to be the right person in the right place for that patient, doing the right intervention. You want to get rid of the blame culture. You want less red tape and more time with your patients, providing continuity of care. This care should be local for general paediatric issues and more centralised for specialised services.

Atmosphere in which we work

Lastly, I will give you some brief quotes that shone through the survey and are universal in their importance: happiness, love and enjoyment in your job, enthusiasm, kindness, patience, respect, cordiality, innovation, camaraderie. You want to make children’s lives better, not just their health.

I appreciate there are many different perspectives and this summary will not reflect all of your valuable input. But it is an inspiring read that will help our profession, our employers and our College to consider and plan for our future working lives.

We're excited to release our report this February and would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part in the survey. Your views have been central to shaping our conclusions across the four workstreams.

It’s not too late to share your views on the future of paediatrics in the UK. Get in touch with the team via paediatrics2040@rcpch.ac.uk or join the conversation on twitter using #Paediatrics2040

Find out more about the Paediatrics 2040 project