Working in a district general hospital or developing a specialist area - paediatrics offers everything

Kate Mackay, who works in paediatric emergency medicine, explains why she found a place where her skills fit in an environment that is interesting, challenging and supportive.

Why did you pick paediatrics?

I never thought I was going to be a paediatrician - I didn’t have the classic love of children at medical school - but always thought I would be a generalist of some form. I did a paediatrics job in Foundation Year 2 and after deciding I wanted to stay in London for specialist training got myself a London Paediatrics number. Three years ago, sub-specialty training (GRID) in emergency medicine offered a move to Birmingham; I was apprehensive but excited.

You need a degree of patience, and confidence to use observation as a form of investigation

Paediatrics offers everything: generalism and specialty, working in a district general hospital or a super-specialist centre, flexibility and variety. I would recommend this job to anyone. The special skills of a paediatrician include the ability to communicate with parents, teenagers, toddlers and the range in between. And, you need a certain degree of patience, and an ability and confidence to use observation as a form of investigation. Anyone who has tried to bleed a 2 year old will know that bloods are not the first port of call!

What have been the challenges of your training?

Any job has its challenges; paediatrics is no different. As a junior trainee, lots of consultants and senior trainees offer support and guidance. In the current climate, this model is challenging, but different workforce planning schemes and innovative ways of working are being trialled across the country. 

I have found a place where my skills fit in an environment that is interesting, challenging and supportive

My personal challenges have sometimes revolved around having achondroplasia [a bone growth disorder]. While I sometimes have to fight my corner, and explain my perhaps less than “health and safety” approved way of doing things, I have been supported, encouraged and mentored in many paediatric specialities. Disability is something paediatricians are used to, and paediatrics mixed with emergency medicine has given me the pragmatic, problem solving and supported learning I have thrived in. This approach gave me the confidence to move to a new city - a move that is likely to have been good for my health, good for my work life balance and good, overall, for me.

What do you most enjoy?

I am lucky to work in a centre that offers me everything; Birmingham Children’s Hospital is a pretty unique place. It is both a super specialist centre for many things (liver, cardiac, PICU, burns, metabolic….and the rest!) while also being the local DGH for central Birmingham. I love that I see everything - from the major trauma patient helicoptered in, to the metabolic patient who is non-specifically unwell but we are their local metabolic centre, to the wheezy 2 year old that lives locally. 

I love my job and I love my team. I have found a place where my skills fit in an environment that is interesting, challenging and supportive.  Moving to a different part of the country has given me an excellent insight into different ways of working, and has given me a much better work-life balance. I would recommend my job to anyone.

Interested in paediatrics? Find out more about this career or read our guides on applying for specialty training.