Whatever your beliefs and background, there’s something about Christmas that tends to put a smile on the face of even the most Scrooge-like of us! It’s an opportunity to share time with family and eat rather too much, and hopefully have some time off too.
I grew up in South Africa and so my memories of Christmas as a child are of watermelon, swimming and the long summer holidays. We sang all the traditional Christmas carols about snow and cold and rich food, but never really thought about how that was in any way relevant to us. I remember the 1984 Band Aid song, Do they know it’s Christmas? There was something curious about the line that went, “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas”. At that stage of my life I had never crossed the borders of South Africa and certainly never seen snow, so it seemed odd to be concerned by the lack of it!
The best part [of my role] is the huge number of new people I meet, and the unexpectedly important lessons I keep learning from the conversations I find myself having with fellow paediatricians – young and old.
So Christmas is an opportunity to celebrate, but also to reflect on the year gone by and wonder at the challenges coming in the New Year. At the College we have spent a lot of time this year thinking really hard about what it means to be a paediatrician and why so many are starting to find the burden of the role almost unbearable.
As is so often the case, the early warning signs of problems began among our junior doctors. We noticed that each year fewer were applying to enter training in paediatrics. We also heard of increasingly significant numbers leaving training to follow other careers. As the year ticked by and the NHS pensions crisis started to take full effect, the disquiet moved to consultant and SAS paediatricians. When people find themselves paying heavy financial penalties for doing a really tough and sometimes thankless job, it’s not surprising that they begin to speak up, restrict their work and even plan early retirement.
As a College we cannot fix all these problems. However, we can listen, learn and then advocate for our members. I have been so impressed and thrilled to see how fast our teams have moved to launch the Choose Paediatrics campaign, and more recently the College’s pensions survey and all the publicity about the impact of the pension tax legislation on paediatricians.
2020 promises to be no less exciting and challenging than 2019! I am really looking forward to our annual RCPCH Conference and exhibition in Liverpool from 28 to 30 April 2020 where we are focusing on the many amazing examples of innovation in child health around the country, and also seeking to learn lessons from other professional sectors and parts of the world. Please come along – I promise you that there will be something for everyone!
There’s an extraordinary selflessness about the colleagues I meet...
The reason why I get such joy from my College role isn’t simply because I get to organise thrilling conferences and help develop exciting courses. The best part is the huge number of new people I meet, and the unexpectedly important lessons I keep learning from the conversations I find myself having with fellow paediatricians – young and old. There’s an extraordinary selflessness about the colleagues I meet and while this can be our downfall, it is also difficult not be infected by the enthusiasm and energy to improve and move forwards.
So, my New Year’s wish for us all is that we redouble our efforts to look after ourselves first and foremost, and only then start an important conversation about how we can continue to make paediatrics the very best career path for any doctor who wishes to make a difference.