The importance of all staff members working together is frequently emphasised to us. Similarly, there is a big focus on working with our patients so they are involved in their own healthcare.
Doctors have their own health challenges. One of these is maintaining the right work-life balance. In my case, half of my rota consists of late shifts, which generally means that I finish at midnight, when all of my colleagues have either gone to bed, or are still at work.
Starting in a smaller hospital has meant there is a relatively small group of newly-qualified doctors, and the key to maintaining our work-life balance is being able to provide each other with support. Demographically we’re an unrepresentative bunch, with about 70 per cent of the group being male. Historically medicine has been a male-dominated profession, and yet most newly qualified doctors are now female.
This is just one of the ways that medicine is changing. Rightly it should be representative of the population it serves, and there have been vast improvements over the last few years. When I was at medical school, a doctor said to me: “You’ll never be able to work in the South because of your Yorkshire accent.” Though at the time this upset me, I now chuckle, because if my patient is happy with my communication skills, then who cares if I elongate my vowels slightly? However, there is a serious threat to the enhancements in widening access to medicine, as there has been a recent introduction of private medical schools, belittling meritocracy but rewarding applicants from a wealthy background.
One of my colleagues finished late last Saturday. She had worked tirelessly for 14 hours, knowing she then had to return to work for 12.5 hours the day after, then work another five days before getting a day off. I have that same rota in 2015, which I know will be a challenge! Workforce planning is a very complex area, something that the BMA has in particular highlighted.
I currently work one in four weekends, which compared to a lot of other A&E doctors, is fairly easy going. My supervisor has gone out of her way to ensure the rota is the safest for patients as it can be. She recently explained that they’d modified the distribution of working hours, so that I work more hours over weekend shifts, but then I get the Monday after off, so that I don’t have to work 12 days straight.
Good for my patients, and good for me. She said no one had thought to try to do that in the past. There is certainly room for more out-of-the-box thinking like that. The A&E department has recently introduced a morning meeting where all clinical, clerical and cleaning staff are invited to discuss how to strengthen the quality of the department. A few great ideas have been incorporated already.
A lot of my colleagues on the wards eat their sandwich while writing discharge letters, so that patients can be sent home from the hospital and more can be admitted. The hospital never sleeps.
To be at your most effective though, you need to be hydrated, fed and not sleep-deprived (no matter what your career). This is a difficult area, though, as if you know so many jobs need doing urgently, then how do you excuse yourself to go grab some food? The team in A&E have been wonderfully supportive in this area though. A couple of the senior doctors have demanded “Melody, go for your break now!”.
The quality of care within my hospital trust has been under intense scrutiny following the Keogh Review, where it was placed under “special measures”.
However, there’s been a big push to improve many aspects of the hospital and recently the staff have celebrated that removal of the trust’s special measures. Celebrating improvement is important, and continuing improvement is vital.
Despite heavy pressures on different members of staff to meet time limits, complete paperwork, finish jobs (all while trying to value each patient as an individual), the team works best when we work together.
If test results don’t come back fast enough, it’s easy to express your frustration towards another colleague. The hospital environment can bring out both the best and worst in people – both patients and staff. However, working together, as summarised by the trust’s motto, makes us a more effective, compassionate, and better healthcare service.
To take part in The Yorkshire Post public debate on the future of hospital care, email [email protected] and include a question. The event will be at Cedar Court Hotel, Huddersfield, on September 22.
Dr Melody Redman is a newly-qualified junior doctor who has just completed her first week at Scunthorpe General Hospital. This is the concluding article of a three-part series. Names have been changed to protect the identity of patients.