Advice to FY1: Dr Clare Gerada

Dr Clare Gerada MBE FRCP FRCGP MRCPsych Medical Director of the Practitioner Health Programmer and Former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners writes about the importance of looking after yourself as a newly qualified doctor.

Dr-Clare-GeradaI qualified as a doctor in 1982, so am now in my 35th year working in the NHS, 25 of them as a general practitioner in the same practice.

The years have gone swiftly and over the course of my career, I can honestly say that it’s been fulfilling, exciting and fundamentally a privilege to serve my patients and local community. Looking back, I would choose medicine again and again and again.

I am not under the illusion that being a doctor is easy, and in many ways it has become harder as patients’ expectations, culture of litigation and constant monitoring and inspection places a burden on us. It is perhaps the hardest of all the professions. Doctors are expected to put others first, to live up to values and exceptional personal attributes, in and out of the work place. I currently run a service for doctors with mental illness, (www.php.nhs.uk) and have done since 2008. Initially only for doctors in the London and South East it has now been expanded to include all GPs and general practitioner trainees (ST1-ST4) across England (www.gphealth.nhs.uk). This means that around 85,000 doctors can access this confidential, free, self-referral service.

Over the years, the number of younger doctors approaching the service has increased – and the under 35-year-old group make up the majority of our patient cohort. This not because this generation are less or more resilient than my generation. Doctors are some of the most resilient people in the work place – they have to be if they are not only to survive, but thrive. But each one of us, given the right or wrong pressures has our breaking point (mine was during a two-week post in a busy unsupported medical job early in my career). What has changed is the working environment, which demands more from each of us in terms of self-sacrifice.

My advice to any newly qualified doctor is as follows. Put yourself first, then your patient. By this I am not advocating clocking off and abandoning your patient mid operation or mid clinic, of course not. But doing that extra shift, working those extra hours is all well and good in a crisis. But when the system demands too much of you, you must be prepared to say “no more”. Remember, pull your own oxygen mask down first. Protecting yourself is not just good for yourself and your mental health and well-being, but also for your patients.

All of you, as you are embarking on a long and I hope enjoyable career, deserve to train and work in an environment which does not make unreasonable demands on you. It is up to my generation to ensure this is the case.

 

 

 

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