Spring is finally here and in the woods close to my home the birdsong begins at 5.30am, a wonderful beginning to the day. The elder and the hawthorn are now coming into leaf, and we are waiting anxiously for the first skylarks to appear in Richmond Park, harbingers of something better in this world.
Never have we needed nature more than now, as a restorative resource to be able to escape the daily stresses, reflect on the times and think about how we find the drive and determination to continue with our work. For the College’s 160 staff, the past year has involved working from home, many, many Teams calls and working from bedrooms, kitchen tables or quickly assembled desks. Gone are the commutes, the coffee breaks to catch up with news, the face-to-face meetings with members where ideas are thrashed out.
Working from home brings its own pressures, as some of you already know, but there are few points of equivalence with the experiences that you as doctors have had during the past year where you’ve been asked to reorganise services, deliver care to very sick adult patients, carry out vaccinations, comfort families, hold up iPads to those who cannot see their partners, or talk to children through remote consultations. As a non-clinician, I can only imagine how long and difficult the days must have been.
You’ve been asked to reorganise services, deliver care to very sick adult patients, carry out vaccinations, comfort families, hold up iPads to those who cannot see their partners, or talk to children through remote consultations
As I look back to just over a year ago, when overnight, the College had to turn into a different being, I’m inordinately proud of the way in which the staff worked with members to take more than 200 different activities and workstreams and transform them into virtual ones. Our understanding of systems and technologies that underpin this has grown exponentially. We now talk with ease about hosting the virtual membership ceremonies – where doctors from more than 20 countries who are becoming a Member or Fellow have a chance to share with others what made them become a paediatrician. Our recent international conference with Singapore colleagues attracted more than 700 delegates.
Now, we have in some ways, a harder task to move to a hybrid world, where we gradually restore activities. Our MRCPCH examination, for example, is now a remote version; it was a Herculean effort by many staff and volunteers that achieved this transformation so that we could ensure that trainees could progress and we are keen for this to return to its face-to-face form. We make decisions through our networks and our committees, and these have benefitted from being run remotely as it’s allowed far more members from outside London to attend without having to build in travel time, so we will keep these largely remote but with opportunities for networking and a physical meeting during the year.
In late March we kicked off the inaugural meeting of our Climate Change group overseeing an initiative which aims to develop insight into how we are tackling the greatest emergency of our time. Through five workstreams, we’ll look at a range of activities and policies and make recommendations on advocacy and policy in this area, research needs, our carbon footprint, our curriculum and importantly how we work with other partners, including looking towards the crucial COP 26 talks in Glasgow this November. It’s great to see how passionate members are about this issue and we hope that volunteers supporting this work will help shape what we do next through their insight and ideas for activities.
Our Climate Change group... aims to develop insight into how we are tackling the greatest emergency of our time
We’re also seeing more changes at the College: alongside our incoming President and Registrar, we are delighted to have appointed Joanne Shaw as our new Chair of the Board of Trustees. She will take up the role in November 2021 when Dame Mary Marsh’s term as the current Chair expires. I must take a moment to thank Mary for her ongoing work, and all the support she has given the College in her role.
To find out more about all the activities happening at the College, please look out for our Annual Review which will be published in the coming weeks and shares the breadth and range of work we do to support our members and improve child health.
Above all, I wanted to say on behalf of our staff a very big thank you for all your support over the past year. We know that many of you are tired and have had very little leave. We hope that you look after yourselves, have a holiday and a rest and a chance for a walk in the woods or - who knows - even see a skylark?
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