You're probably reading this because you had a knee-jerk reaction to the title, considering the recent media press surrounding the planned 5 day walk out over junior doctor contract imposition and a heavily publicised nationwide shortage of doctors.
..Or you're a doctor looking desperately for a way out.
What I do
I'm a junior doctor myself. Have been so for 10 years, with another 2 years of specialist training to go until I become a Consultant. My role is somewhat different from other doctors in that my 'patients' are healthcare workers, which include doctors.
I am not directly responsible for their care, however act as an advisory by signposting them to relevant health support services they may require enabling them to continue working safely.
My biggest agenda as an Occupational Health Doctor, is to keep people in work that they enjoy according to a strong evidence base that work is generally good for health.
Therefore the converse is true - I also ensure that their work is not wholly detrimental to their health; and advise them and their managers accordingly if I believe this is the case.
Only in recent years, has doctors' wellbeing been recognised as a serious national concern in the UK. This was heralded by the sincerely tragic case in 2000 of Dr. Daksha Emson, a psychiatry trainee diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, who committed suicide by stabbing herself and setting herself and her baby daughter alight. The subsequent inquiry highlighted the realistic fear of stigma in posessing a mental illness as a doctor & the complex needs of doctors as patients.
The paradox is, whilst we remain committed to delivering excellent patient care, we are also relatively vulnerable to health problems for a variety of reasons including;
• Lack of insight into serious illnesses impacting on our work
• Indirect pressure to stay at work whilst unwell due to an already understaffed department and guilt of the added potential detrimental impact to patient care
• Taboo associated with mental health problems and concerns about confidentiality amongst colleagues which may affect current future career opportunities
• Previously dwindling number of support services available & easily accessible to doctors
• Preference for 'corridor consultations' with other medical colleagues compared to taking time out of work for a formal appointment
Thankfully, there are now several mental health resources & services available for doctors. Notably many have reported a significant increase in uptake or over-saturation with self-referrals, particularly over the last few years, illustrating that demand is exceeding supply.
Helping doctors who wish to leave their jobs
At several points in my life as a doctor, I was so dissatisfied with my career to the point where my parents convinced me to seek out mental health support.
2 years ago, as a result my own personal journeying and witnessing several of my disenfranchised colleagues either leaving the country or the profession due to working conditions, or believing that their health problems could not be supported at work, I co-founded Medic Footprints; an independent social enterprise for doctors promoting alternative careers and wellbeing for doctors.
Several have accused us of 'taking doctors away from the NHS', when in fact, we're not prescribing any particular pathway or affiliating with specific employers.
We support and encourage doctors to take a balanced and wellbeing-focused approach to exploration of their career options, with the objective to find a role in their life where they are free to pursue their passions, develop their talents and most importantly, remain genuinely happy in what they do.
Whether as a doctor or otherwise.
We find this translates positively towards both their physical and mental health and subsequently their output - which, as a medical doctor, means great patient care.
Events we organise similar to our large conference at the end of September, are becoming increasingly popular due to our desire to sustain an open platform for doctors to network and discuss their concerns without the fear of taboo.
So, in the wake of the upcoming strikes, as an Occupational Health Doctor who loves her job and a national healthcare service which is free at the point of care;
I support contesting any contract which potentially poses as a detriment to the health of my patients; Junior Doctors and the wider healthcare profession.
I also believe however, that striking is by no means, the ideal way forward..
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