Supporting each other through the journey ahead - President's blog

Camilla writes about how easy it is to feel powerless and out of control. In doing this, we can then explore what is in our individual power to help make positive impacts.

A young paediatrician whom I have known for over 10 years came to see me last week for a catch-up. She has faced adversity in every part of her life over a sustained period of time and this has meant she hasn’t been able to work for several years. I found myself feeling oddly emotional as she told me why she had asked for the meeting.

I see in my own neonatal unit and I hear from so many colleagues in the full range of paediatric settings, how extremely pressurised and scarily busy it is at the moment.

Firstly, she wanted to say thank you, and secondly she wanted to tell me how determined she is to return to working in paediatrics. I felt embarrassed that she could be grateful to me as I have not been able to help her with any of the numerous awful things that have happened in her personal life. Her message though was simple – she had just wanted to be heard and to know that someone cared. And as for wanting to return to work, she was adamant. Having been unable to work for a while has helped her understand not just how important work is for her wellbeing, but how much she misses the camaraderie and challenge of working in a team that cares for children.

Afterwards, reflecting on our conversation, I realised how much our worlds of work contribute to our own health and wellbeing – albeit not always positively. And also that, even when one cannot do much to help another, simply listening and giving them time can really make a difference.

I hope you’ll forgive me retelling this story. I see in my own neonatal unit and I hear from so many colleagues in the full range of paediatric settings how extremely pressurised and scarily busy it is at the moment. It is so easy to feel powerless and out of control. The colleague who came to see me reminded me that the world of paediatrics really is a privilege to work in and crucially, simply saying thank you and giving people time can sometimes be enough. As a College, we are committed to doing everything in our power to support and help our workforce – and even when we are low on fresh ideas to solve problems this winter, we are here to listen and are forever grateful to all our members for what they do. In view of this, we have pulled together the resources that are available to support you and colleagues on the ground this winter – including to support your own wellbeing. We will also keep the page updated as further tools and resources become available.

I sincerely hope that we can collectively support our junior colleagues to get as much useful learning from the next months as possible.

We all know that when our services are very busy, sadly education programmes are often cancelled and junior doctors who should be off getting outpatient experience, or taking time to undertake an audit or sit in on a specialty clinic, are asked to cancel those plans in favour of covering the acute part of the service. I know how much this worries our trainees and this is entirely understandable. My colleague Cathryn Chadwick, Vice President for Training and Assessment, has recently written about this. In addition, the training message for this month is “every patient encounter is a learning opportunity”. While clearly we need to protect educational opportunities and try really hard not to cancel them – I sincerely hope that we can collectively support our junior colleagues to get as much useful learning from the next months as possible.

Many of you will have met our Chair of the Board of Trustees at RCPCH, Dame Mary Marsh. Dame Mary has been our first Board Chair and has just completed five years in that role. What a privilege it has been to have such a committed, knowledgeable and hardworking Chair. Whatever the College event, Dame Mary would effortlessly move around chatting to paediatricians, supporting and encouraging. I have benefitted enormously from her wise counsel over the last months as I have settled into the President role. You can read Dame Mary’s reflections on her time at RCPCH in her final blog and as we bid her farewell, I would like to record our collective thanks to her for five years’ service.

...please follow the cyclists as they raise awareness of the impact of air pollution on the health of children – at a time when hopefully the world is focussed on the impact of the climate emergency

Finally, a large number of paediatricians and healthcare workers from children’s hospitals around the country will be setting off this Sunday to cycle from London to Glasgow for COP26. A few are doing the entire trip – and the rest of us will do one or two legs. I will let you know how the Newcastle to Carlisle leg goes in my next blog, having been too easily persuaded by some very fit and enthusiastic colleagues! However, please follow the cyclists as they raise awareness of the impact of air pollution on the health of children – at a time when hopefully the world is focussed on the impact of the climate emergency.

With my best wishes to you all and take care,

Camilla


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