nhs, Uncategorized

Do you want to build a snowman?

What a mad few days!

It started on Tuesday with the warning that the ‘Beast From the East’ was coming.  Although it was predicted to only hit the east side of the UK I thought I’d best prepare.  Or at any rate buy some thermal tights.  To be fair we’ve had these kind of armageddon warnings before so no one was really that concerned ‘it’ll be a pussy cat by the time it gets to Scotland’.

However this was to be no fluffy kitten of a storm.

Waking up on Wednesday morning it became apparent that we were in for a rough day.  Waiting for the train in a snowy Queen Street Station my phone buzzed constantly. Our rota WhatsApp was rammed with messages from the trainees saying they’d either be late with some unable to make it at all.

Despite that I honestly didn’t think it was going to be anything more than a really rubbish day.  Then came the news a 1.30pm that a red weather warning was to come into effect at 3pm.  People were advised to leave immediately and public transport stopped running.

It became clear that this was going to be more than just a rubbish day.

A mass exodus ensued for all non essential staff.  WhatsApp, email and my page was going constantly.  In the midst of the chaos people were still turning up to my clinic despite having been phoned not to come.  Trying to manage the situation was, how they say, ‘challenging’

As with any crisis you get to see a wide spectrum of human behaviours.  Now I’m writing from the perspective of a doctor who also happens to be in charge of all things junior doctor related.  It’s not to downplay or ignore the work of all my other colleagues.  It’s just how I experienced it.

To say I was impressed with how our junior docs stepped up would be a gross understatement.  I was blown away.

As the hospital emptied they took the initiative to arrange a meeting for everyone who was left to sort out what was needed.  I was acting as support/go between (or gopher for want of another description) between the trainees and the remains of the management team.

There were many rumours circulating which made trying to manage the situation more tricky:

  •  ‘your insurance is invalid during a red weather warning’
  • ‘will I be made to work nightshift if I’ve been on days’
  • ‘the buses are running – no they’re not, yes they are’
  • ‘the canteen has run out of food and is closing at 3pm’

We tried to get advice from the BMA only to be told the office had been temporarily evacuated due to the weather – much to the amusement of everyone at the meeting.

Whilst it seemed to be getting a little silly it seemed to only further fuel the trainees enthusaism.  I didn’t hear one word of complaint/moan/whinge.  That was until the news broke that the pub at the Premier Inn had shut. Deflating balloon would be an accurate description looking round the room – however hero of the hour Dr Dan Beckett went out into the blizzard to source some supplies.

I did manage to get through to the BMA. Rumours were clarified.  Patient care was sorted. It was all good.

As Wednesday morning arrived the reality of what we were dealing with became apparent.  The hospital huddle was reporting next to no staff had made it in.  It had the feeling of a war zone.

Still everyone pulled together.  It was phenomenal.  We had senior management out and about in 4x4s picking people up.  Serco doing everything they could to ensure patients and staff were fed and the place was clean.  Our nurses continued to deliver excellent care. That doesn’t even cover our other colleagues in pharmacy, the labs, rehab and countless others.

All the while I was bouncing around seeing thrombolysis referrals, doing a ward round and manning the texts and WhatsApp.  Adrenaline may’ve increased my average working speed to 1000mph but I did force myself to slow down as I spoke to worried relatives/carers.

So the day went on. As did the snow. It. Never. Stopped. All. Day.

We were all getting tired at this point.  The hero in my story was my Charge Nurse Nyree Philips.  Living across from the hospital she came in off her annual leave as well as providing me with chat, an ear and later in the night, gin!  All this despite my laughing at her when she face planted in the snow as we walked out of the hospital.

I spent time with colleagues I rarely see and got to know others better.  A thought that went through my head was ‘you just don’t know’  – you don’t know what people are dealing with or going through.

We also talk a lot about how we’ve lost that sense of team spirit and camaraderie with all the rota changes.  On reflection I disagree.  I don’t think it ever went away.  We just lost sight of it.  Now I’m not suggesting we should get snowed in on a regular basis but I do think we need to try harder to make time.

As the past few days has shown even when we were at our most stretched and busiest we were still able to make the time to ask ‘You alright?  Fancy a coffee/chat? That’s what’s going to stay with me after this experience.

However now that I’m finally home you will need to excuse me.  I’m off to build a snowman…..

snowmaggedon team photo
Team Snowmaggedon


nhs, Uncategorized

Here comes the sun

When I started writing this blog a couple of weeks ago there had just been the GMC ruling over Dr Bawa-Garba.  Not surprisingly it sent shockwaves through the medical profession.  One of the main issues was around rota gaps and trainees being stretched even further in order to cover them.

As I’ve mentioned before I am the Forth Valley medical rota lead.  Some refer to it as the ‘Poison Chalice’.  I roll my eyes whenever things like this are said in my presence.  Why?  Because it shouldn’t be so difficult or complicated to run a rota.

With that in mind I think it’s important to remind people that rotas are a fundamental necessity of the NHS.  A service that is about patients.  Or people.  People who are sick. People who are vulnerable. People who need people to take care of them.

This service can only operate if the doctors, or people if you will, are not over tired, stressed or lack the skills or support to do it safely.

This service of caring also requires processes to help facilitate the safe delivery of it.  Sometimes we refer to these processes as people too.  Behind every flow chart, piece of paper and email are people whose job is the smooth running of this mammoth organisation.

However in every high pressure service there can be obstructive, confusing behaviours or opportunists trying to push personal agendas.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some points in our careers.

Now I can appreciate that people are apt to do to unusual things when they are under pressure.  I can also accept that some lack the insight or self awareness to recognise when they do.  What I can’t accept is when it appears to be wilful.  Blaming others for their mistakes, not taking responsibility or being accountable in any way.

So how does this change?

You need formal governance around any rota work. Without it there can be no consistent management, cohesive policies, guidance, processes or decision-rights to allow the safe running of the service.

The GMC have said there should be a ‘guardian of safe training’.  Now I would love if Chris Pratt came and fixed it all but this seems far fetched.  Well is it so far fetched to have processes and people that work for the service instead of against it?  A service that strives to care for people.  Well I don’t think it is.

This week I had several conversations with those instrumental in improving it.  They were long, they were at times difficult but we made progress.  I could not be more proud or impressed with the way people showed up.  I don’t just mean physically.  I mean actual showed up and had the uncomfortable conversation from a place of honesty and willingness to change.

It’s been a long, cold, winter and I think we could all use a little respite.  So as the sun begins to creep through, I think it’s going to be alright…..

nhs, Uncategorized

Shine bright like a diamond

Happy New Year!

We haven’t exactly got off to a flying start.  To be honest the NHS is usually hit pretty hard at this time but nothing like we’ve experienced this year.   However I don’t want to waste what precious time you have talking about the flu or the so called ‘NHS crisis’.  It’s well documented and I’m pretty sure most of you are still in the midst of it.

No, what I’d like to talk about are the conversations I’ve had.  While it’s felt like working in a pressure cooker at times, it is this pressure that can turn a black situation into a gem.  You just need to see its potential.

For example, talking about death.

As a Geriatrician it comes with the territory.  However if you ask hospital doctors or nurses, most of these conversations are had with people who we know are going to die.  What do I mean by that?  Those with a cancer or a progressive chronic disease like heart failure or COPD.  It’s expected and we’re comfortable in talking about it. What we’re not so good at is when the person doesn’t fall neatly into one of those categories.

How do you tell someone they may be dying  when they’re alert, not confused and want to know why they’re not getting better?

To look someone in the eyes and tell them ‘I may not be able to make you better’ when that’s what you’ve been trained to do is hard. However I have always taken the view that I don’t want the person (or their family) to be surprised. I certainly don’t want to deny what time they might have left by not being as honest as I can.

I think it would be fair to say that as doctors we tend to shy away from these kind of conversations.  There is a gradual shift in this however as people are becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Some time after I listened to a podcast with Dr Jil Bolte talking about her book ‘My Stroke of Insight’.  In it she spoke about how she lost the power of speech and understanding due to an intracerebral haemorrhage.  The part of her brain that dealt with perception of tone, intonation was still there.  What struck a chord was the way she spoke about people including doctors needing to ‘show up’  when they came to see her.  Don’t just go through the motions but really connect for the time you’re in the room.

This may sound an obvious thing to say but working in such a pressurised environment it’s something that’s easily forgotten.  Not on purpose I might add.  Its just we become very task orientated when the place is so busy. I totally understand how that may come across but do not confuse it with not caring or not doing a good job.  It’s just sometimes there is very little left to give.  You need energy to make a connection or have an uncomfortable conversation.

On that note she spoke of being accountable for the energy you bring to the room.  So with that in mind I try hard (not always successfully) to leave whatever baggage I am dealing with at the door.

It then becomes about compartmentalising. How do you teach that?  I’m not sure you can to be honest.  Stopping to reflect is key.  Even mid ward round.  I’ll often throw out questions with no expectation of an answer. It can generate some interesting discussion though.

It was during one such conversation I was reminded by one of the FY1’s that medicine is taught as black and white but life and people are colour.  You need to allow for that.

So that’s whats made this flu crisis so interesting in some respects.  People are being forced to behave in ways they don’t like or are used to. They’ve had to not only show up for the patients but also their colleagues.

One things for sure people are having to dig deeper to find that reserve.  Let’s see if 2018 will lead to something more sustainable for the future……

Leadership, Uncategorized

Everything is everything…

So I’ve been a bit quiet of late on the blog front.  My head has been rammed with all things work related specifically the medical rota.

I don’t think it’s any secret that things had not been going as well as we’d hoped. We had (and still do have) significant staff shortages. It was becoming a total nightmare trying to balance training, education and service delivery.

It all came to a head a couple months ago and what followed were some uncomfortable but honest conversations.

I took over the day to day running of it.  First up was trying to get clarity over what needed doing first. I set about distilling it into short, medium and long term goals.  That was the easy part however I had forgotten to factor in one thing:

It turns out some people do not want problems fixed.

Yes, it’s true!

This is not a new phenomena either – think about all the projects you’ve tried to get off the ground or change you’ve tried to implement and you’ll know it’s true.

Now of course the trainees wanted it fixed as did some other like minded folk but very few other people did.

To start with it confused me. Perhaps naively I hadn’t appreciated just how many people merely talk a good game.  You can usually recognise them by their passionate agreement with everything and anything followed by doing nothing.

Then you have the people who are downright obstructive either in their behaviour or use of bureaucratic process.  This makes me angry.

At the point where traditionally I say ‘stuff it, I’m off’ I chose to dig my heels in and work harder.

It has made me hugely unpopular at times and probably damaged a lot of my working relationships with colleagues.  However things could not continue on a downward spiral.

To that end I have taken a rather detached but objective view on things. There have been some overwhelmingly positive things to come out of the work so far. Some of which I truly believe have the all the hallmarks of culture change.

There are some who have really stepped up and are effecting this much needed change.  Having the trainees involved in the rota management has been key.  We meet every week to work thorough the issues. The process is still being refined but it is starting to become more slick.

One of our early success stories is the WhatsApp group to help share information and deal with urgent issues in real time.

I also send a weekly rota update to my Consultant colleagues and the wider trainee group.

There is even representation from the management team at our rota meetings.

I know there are those who continue to be unhappy about the perceived lack of progress.  There will also be those who use the rota to push their own agendas, blaming everything on it.  Some are simply furious for all their perceived loss of power and control.

Personally I can see a glimmer of light creeping in through the thorny trees of a dark wood. It is also now that I can allow myself some breathing space to pause and reflect on where we are and where we need to go next.

The path is becoming clearer. It is one where everyone is now much better equipped with information and support.

We just need to keep going, forging new paths before we ultimately reach our destination….

Leadership, nhs


Up until this week I’d considered the concept of ‘team work’ to be within the context of sport. Organisations such as the NHS have also adopted it however I’d never really thought about it within the context of music.

My daughter has recently started learning the glockenspiel and plays in the school band.  She’s pretty good – yes I’m bias but she can play the Star Wars theme tune note perfect and with no sheet music. Come on, that’s good!

Anyhow I digress…. The kids have a completion coming up so having been rehearsing hard.  This particular morning the parents were treated to a performance of how they were getting on.  At the end the teacher explained to us some of the non technical skills they were learning in addition to the actual music.

I found it fascinating.

There were 5 main features:

  1. Focus – the kids were told to ignore any waving or shouting from the audience. By ignoring any distractions they were to walk to their positions looking professional. Focused on the music ahead.
  2. Tempo – each piece of music has a particular speed restriction.  Knowing it means everyone in the band adheres to it, neither going too fast or too slow.  The team goes along at the correct speed
  3. Leadership – keeping an eye on things is the band leader or the conductor.  The band members are advised to look to the conductor to ensure they are playing at the correct speed and at the right time.  The conductor themselves has the job of keeping everything harmonious and on time.
  4. Vision – is it what the composer wanted? Does it sound like what was envisaged for the piece.  The conductor can only do their job right if the various parts have the correct notes, in the correct section and aligned perfectly.
  5. Resilience – when it all goes bit pear shaped can you listen to what’s going on around you to pick it up again?

Point 5 I found the most interesting concept. It essentially spoke to me about the idea of silo working that I’m seeing at work.  What I liked about it in this context was while everyone has their own part/instrument to play, they are taught to listen to the other band members to guide them when they get lost or play a wrong note.  They don’t just give up and stop playing.  They get right back into the music and continue to contribute.

I think we need more of this in the NHS.  I do accept there are those out there trying to do this but they are still in the minority.  I have yet to fathom why.

While I was mulling this Kenny Dalgliesh came on Sunday Brunch.  Amongst the many questions asked of King Kenny (my husband tells me I’m legally required to refer to him by this name) he was asked what is was like to change from being a player to a manager?

In his very matter of fact way he explained that essentially he wasn’t part of that world anymore.  He noted that when he’d walk into dressing rooms the conversation would stop.  It was fine though.  He understood the change from playing with your mates to being the one who makes the tough decisions and enforces the rules.  Sure you can have the banter but at the end of the day the players look to their manager for guidance.

I see this in my work.  I am the big bad rota meister. I am also the one who constantly goes on about having structure and action plans. I am the one who walks into a room and the conversation stops.

However these days I have a choice of rooms to go into.  There are some that require the direction of a conductor.  And then there are those full of composers trying to create the vision.

At the end of the day the choice is clear for the NHS – we can collectively create beautiful music or continue to tolerate a big old noisy mess.  I am optimistic that the answer will be music to our ears…..


Danger Zone

Today was a great day.  I flew a plane!

Ok, not an actual plane, I’d booked a session in a simulator next to Glasgow Airport.  For those who don’t know I am a recovering flying phobic.  A couple of years ago I decided to do something about it and went on Virgin’s ‘Flying without Fear’ course.  It was quite an eventful day but one I credit with literally putting a rocket up me to overcome my fear.


Now of course my fear of flying was merely a symptom. The underlying cause was a crappy anxiety gene that manifested itself in panic attacks.  While you can’t do much about how you’re made up you can modify how things are expressed.  What helped in my case was that I also inherited a ‘don’t tell me I can’t do that’ gene.  Although my family will often say it’s just sheer bloody mindedness.  Whatever you call it it’s something that has got me where I am today and in particular into the seat of a Boeing 737 simulator.

I had decided after my exhilarating flight over Birmingham I would sign up for flying lessons.  Here’s the thing about phobias though, they don’t just go away overnight.  The control freak in me was only happy with learning to fly a big jet engine and by the way, only on sunny days with no wind.

As it turns out that’s not really something that we have in Scotland.  Oh, we do have the planes, just not the weather.  Apparently you also can’t just pitch up and ask for a flying lesson.  Something about training, cost, blah, blah, blah.  Whatever……

So I started doing some research.  I discovered most people start with small planes.  Tiny. Little. Two seater planes. No, not for me thanks very much!

To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure why I had this slight obsession about learning to fly.  A fair amount had happened since the course reinforcing just how far I’d come.  I’d flown my first solo transatlantic flight to Nashville.  I’d dealt with a medical emergency on a flight back from Gran Canaria. First time I’d cannulated someone and given IV opiates at 30,000 feet.

Mostly it was that I’d started enjoying the whole flying experience. There is a whole other world up above the clouds.  The views, the stillness. It’s just beautiful.

So back to my flying simulation – with all this positive affirmation in my head I thought it would be a breeze.  What I didn’t expect was the old familiar anxiety feelings to resurface.  So much so I nearly didn’t go. Ridiculous really!

However I applied the same strategy as I do when on an actual plane – I told them I had until recently had a fear of flying.  It seems one of their instructors also had this and now teaches people how to fly.

We started with a short talk on the principals of flying.  I was then given the option of going in the 737 or being taught in the simulator for little planes.

I have to say the flight deck of a 737 is quite impressive.  So many buttons and dials.  I decided however I wanted to fly properly so we headed back to the smaller one.

I know! I was as surprised when I said I’d prefer the two seater plane.

As I sat on the simulated runway of Glasgow Airport I could not only hear the noise of real life planes landing but feel it too.  It only added to the experience.  I may’ve been feeling teeny tiny but I was raring to go!

The next hour was spent flying around Loch Lomond, practicing banking, going up and down.  I took off (quite easy) and landed (not so easy) a few times.  To make it more interesting at the end wind, rain and low cloud cover was added.  I managed to land but forgot to use the peddles to steer once I’d got on the ground.  It finished with a rather flamboyant 360 spin.  I still managed to walk out the simulator in one piece though.

Whatever your particular phobia is I would urge you to push yourself to overcome it. There is a world of opportunities out there if you can.  For me, it’s been about coming out my comfort zone and into the Danger Zone……

education, geriatrics

A Whole New World

Three exciting things happened this week – I hosted my first ever Journal Club on Twitter, I attended the BMA Women in Medicine event and also presented at the Geriatrics for Juniors conference in Newcastle.

All very different but all with one thing in common – bringing people together.

My feeling over the past few months is that within healthcare there has been a creeping return to silo working. Whether it’s staffing on a ward area, the rota or teaching it all feels like people are in self preservation mode. It was nice to be pulled out of that for a while and see what was going on in the wider world

I’m not sure how many of you still run journal clubs at work?  They’re something that seem to have fallen out of fashion. I’ve got to be honest, in the past I didn’t like them.  For those who are unfamiliar, the premise was that some unfortunate soul was nominated to present a ‘topical’ paper at a lunchtime meeting.  This paper would then be dissected by the audience.  It was an opportunity for scientific ‘show pony-ism’ for the statistically minded. Usually I forgot to read the paper and when I did there seemed to be far too many statistics which I didn’t understand. I learnt nothing.

Years later I have come to appreciate their value in appraising evidence which is clinically relevant to my day to day work. I am still not keen however on the traditional design of a Journal Club.

What the @GIMJClub guys have done is take the same principal – ‘have paper, now discuss….’ and refreshed the format for a wider social media audience (#genmedjc)

In the week leading up to the Journal Club the paper and its supplementary links were shared across several social media platforms.  This allowed people the time and the flexibility to read it on a device of their choosing.  I must admit though, I still printed it off and sat with a pink highlighter pen – old habits!

The discussion was fast paced and hugely interesting. I learned loads!  The bonus part was it allowed people from all over the UK to take part from the comfort of their own home.

Using Storify, I was able to capture the main points reflecting a happy couple of hours of educational community.


This energy followed me to the Women in Medicine BMA event a couple of days later (#BMAWomenMedicine). The workshops I found the most useful were those on Less Than Full-Time (LTFT) working.  It struck me that people were somewhat left to get on with it when it came to LTFT working.  As someone who has trained and currently works, correction, is paid less than full time it is a subject close to my heart.  We are seeing a change in the workforce with more people choosing to work flexibly where possible.

The BMA have recognised this and have introduced the concept of ‘LTFT Champions’. An informal go-to person to ask advice on the practicalities of LTFT working and to also  provide local guidance.  It’s something I’m looking to introduce to Forth Valley in the coming months.

To round off the week I was asked to present at the Geriatrics for Juniors conference (#G4J17).  The guys at @AEME are heroes of mine. Not only have they advanced Geriatric education they have raised the profile of the speciality a million fold.

On a cold Saturday in Newcastle ~200 mostly junior doctors attended a day of very entertaining presentations on the different facets of Geriatrics. To my mind this reflects the growing interest in our speciality, which I hope ultimately translates into more people training as Geriatricians.

What continues to impress me most about @AEME is that they not only recognised the need for a different way to deliver Geriatric teaching but they went out and did it.  They also managed to attract like-minded individuals to give up their time and contribute too – whether through a Connect event, a Podcast or their newly formed Mentor network.  Silo working just does not exist in their world.

Now of course you don’t have to go to these lengths to get out and talk to people. Pick up the phone, email (yes, I said it; its still a convenient communication tool), grab a coffee together or meet up with other specialty colleagues before a lunchtime meeting. One of my colleagues is trying to do this very thing by booking an area next to the lecture theatre.

Either way just get out there, people. You’ll be amazed by what you find….


It’s all so quiet

The joy of being on holiday is guilt free daytime telly viewing.  I have watched all kinds of rubbish this week but one thing that caught my eye was on Lorraine Kelly’s show

‘Does your workplace offer any support for women going through menopause?’

Apparently Lorraine is running a series called the ‘M Word’. Now admittedly my original intention was to catch up on high street fashion but I was intrigued to see where the discussion would go.

I’ve shared my own experience in a couple of blogs but it’s something that I continue to learn about and hence want to write about.

So back to the question – I haven’t a clue but my feeling is no.  In the NHS if you are pregnant, had a needle stick injury or are stressed then yes, there is support and very good it is too.

However when I went to my local Occupational Health department a few years ago shortly after my diagnosis they didn’t seem to know quite what to do with me.  Now don’t get me wrong they were lovely and very sympathetic but that’s as far as it went.

‘Could we tie it into your migraines?  That would work as migraine is on our list?’

‘How would that help?  I’ve not had a migraine in ages’

‘You know they say that happens with the menopause so that’s good news!’

‘Right………Well, thanks for that. Bye!’

I didn’t really give it anymore thought until this week so I began looking around the internet to see if things had changed.

It’s worth noting that the NHS is 77% female and while the average age of menopause in the UK is 51 there is an increasing number of women under the age of 40 being diagnosed – 750,000. So it’s pretty common.

There are an array of symptoms associated with menopause but the one that stands out is mental health.  Many women are so debilitated with depression and anxiety that they’ve had to take time off work with some even leaving altogether.  What I found most shocking is that according to the 2014 Nuffield Health survey about a quarter of them thought their mental health problems were simply due to stress.

With that in mind I wonder how much our Occ Health colleagues ask about other menopausal symptoms in women referred with ‘stress’? Perhaps as it doesn’t fit neatly into a list I wouldn’t have thought it’s even considered.

What I have found over the past few years is a total lack of awareness never mind education or discussion.  Anything that has been done seems very stop, start.

Now I do admire those who are trying to break this cycle (pardon the pun).  Our nursing colleagues seem to have acknowledged it with the Royal College of Nursing and Midwives producing guidance.

Even the Police are taking it seriously – there’s a National Police Menopause Action group with a clearly defined processes and information for managers.

Despite all my searching I couldn’t find anything from the BMA or any other national guidance for that matter.  Last week I wrote about a workforce of ghosts and I’m reminded of this again when I think about all the women I encounter on a daily basis.

So on my return to work this week I plan to pop into my Occ Health department to ask them what our local guidance is. If we have none then I will be suggesting that one is developed or consideration given to organising some drop in sessions.

It would be nice to think that working women wouldn’t have to rely on daytime telly as their only resource. If so the only cycle that will continue is that of ignorance….








Día de los Muertos

My previous blog generated a fair bit of discussion around mental health and it’s something that’s still on my mind a couple of weeks later.

Since adopting (or at least trying to adopt) the 4 agreements the one I’m having the most success with is ‘take nothing personally’.  It really is quite liberating!  That said it still needs a degree of self awareness.  You can’t really blame someone else for projecting their reality on to you when in fact it’s you that’s being an arse in the first place.

It also doesn’t mean letting people away with behaving badly either. I’ve become much more aware of other people’s sense of personal responsibility for someone else’s bad mood or perceived injustice.

What I have been less good at is being ‘impeccable with my word’.  Man alive it’s hard!  It’s all good and well when everything is plodding along and you’re full of energy.  However after a day of constant paging, emails and bouncing from one thing to the next the only thing I’m impeccable with is my choice of expletives.

However it was with this fresh perspective that I went to our Consultant away day.  The day had been organised to bring together senior clinicians and management.  I’m not going to get into the detail of the day as the whole premise was to have a safe space to air views.  I would however like to make some observations based on the many away days I’ve been to over the years.

I am beginning to think that the NHS is being run by ghosts.  You know they’re there, you just can’t see or hear them.  Traditional thinking is that they are dead inside however judging by the comments made on post it notes or feedback sheets there is in fact spirit.  However that spirit is in pain, feeling frustrated and not being valued.

I always think the purpose of these days is to exorcise feelings in something akin to a purge. So is it merely enough just to write them down or stick them on a wall?

The reason I think many of these well intentioned days fail is precisely due to this.  It all gets written down and not followed through.  Many assumptions are made about whose fault it is and life goes on the same.  It’s all a bit depressing.

So why not try something different and call these days what they really are: ‘Day of the Dead’ and no, I’m not being facetious.

The Mexicans believe that the day celebrates the cyclical nature of life in particular how new life can come from death.  Why not in these team building, management away days openly talk about the past but with one major difference – let ideas and life evolve and flourish.

I know some of you will be thinking ‘but we do that’ however I’m here to tell you it’s the exact opposite that happens. Why else do we keep having the same conversations if things are moving forward?

What we need to do is restore a little faith and breath renewed life into our workforce. Acknowledge the past but not stagnate in it.

Let the spirit of our NHS live…..

nhs, Uncategorized

You Got the Love

When I started writing these blogs it was with the intention of starting some conversations and understanding different perspectives.  Most of all I wanted them to be authentic.

This week I gave serious thought to resigning.

A perfect storm of events last week lead me to sit down and try to put into words why.

As I read it back the following day it made for painful reading.  Most of the issues centred around everyone else and how I was reacting to their behaviours and attitudes.  There was very little about the actual job of being a doctor.  A job I love.

When I’m under severe stress or pressure I withdraw. I go into a mental bunker and stay there while my brain conducts a sort of mental purge.  All kinds of garbage can come spewing out.  Most of it is a series of imaginary conversations all of which are in fact rooted in reality.  Things I wished I’d said, what that person would’ve said if I had.  A whole lot of nonsense really.  However it’s this nonsense that depletes my energy and causes unnecessary friction.  It had also brought me to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to work as a doctor.

For those of you reading this who have never experienced it I genuinely admire you.  I do believe though that the vast majority are not so blessed.

My mental health is such that I can recognise the signs and choose to retreat.  I need to let my mind do it’s thing but at the same time try not to pay attention to it.

During these times I rely on practicing mindfulness (Headspace) so I can literally watch the thoughts float in and out my mind.  At the point I have to stop concentrating and ‘let my mind do whatever it wants to do’ I never cease to be amazed that it does nothing. Nadda.  No thoughts at all.  This amuses me no end given the constant chatter of it at any other time.

I also listen to podcasts. Shortly after listening to one such podcast I had something of an epiphany (or mini psychotic moment depending on your perspective).  I listened to an interview with Don Miguel Ruiz.  He wrote the book ‘The Four Agreements’.  I’m not one for airy fairy self help stuff but this book has made a significant impact on me.

The four agreements are simple:

1. Be impeccable with your word

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions

4. Always do your best

Hearing him speak and then reading the book has really forced me to stop and take a proper hard look at my own perception of the world and how it’s so dependent on the opinions of others.  My preferred poison of choice – the one telling me I’m not really good enough.

What I have found in the space of a week is that like mindfulness, when you put a stop to the white noise you are left with something of a void.  I’m not sure what to make of it just yet other than it’s very quiet. If I’m being entirely honest the silence is taking some getting used to but it does feel good.

I also can’t say with certainty how it will ultimately impact not just my professional but also my personal life.  I do feel like there has been something of a seismic change in my outlook.  I also believe it stopped me from giving up on something I love.  And that can only be a good thing……