Consultant Paediatrician, Joint Head of Service for General Paediatrics, Evelina Hospital, London
Tell us about your journey into a medical career?
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was 16. I never really received any career advice and I could not envisage how most degrees led onto anything apart from being a teacher and I knew I did not want to do that! The real impetus to applying for medicine was being told by my school they would not support my application as they did not think I would get the grades based on my GCSE results – well they didn’t realise how stubborn I was and this was just the push I needed to get my head down and study
When did you decide to do paediatrics?
I didn’t really research medical school and was under the false impression that after you finished you would immediately be a GP – quite a shock when I realised this was not the case a few years in! After house jobs I went to work in New Zealand – there were not many jobs left and I randomly ended up doing 6 months each of paeds and obs and gynae. I did not envisage at the time that was to be the start of my journey to a career in paediatrics.
What led you to choose paediatrics?
I had planned to be a GP. I loved my paediatric and O&G jobs, when I worked in New Zealand. I did not however relish the thought of having to do an adult medical SHO job to be able to become a GP! I decided to do a bit more paeds and then just a bit more then thought I might as well do my exams and then if I get a reg post I will do a bit more paeds. Suddenly I was just about to CCT and I had never got round to applying for GP training and realised that paediatrics was actually the career for me! Thank goodness I am not a GP – paediatrics was definitely the right choice!
When you were a medical student, how did you envisage your life as a doctor?
I envisaged a big house in a village in Surrey or Sussex as the local GP well known in the community!
How does the reality match or differ from that?
The reality is so different and I would not change it for the world. I work at Evelina Childrens hospital as a consultant in General paediatrics. The hospital is in the middle of London and functions as a DGH within a tertiary hospital meaning I see an amazing mix of regular general paediatrics but also very complex long term patients. Being in London we have a wonderful mix of patients from around the world from different socioeconomic groups and others with extremely rare conditions meaning I am always challenged and never bored!
What do you love about your work?
I love my colleagues! I am so lucky to work as part of the most amazing consultant team. We are close friends as well as colleagues. I also love Evelina for its values and the way as an institution it is always pushing to improving services and patient care. I could not imagine ever working anywhere else.
What frustrates you about being a working mother?
Time away from my 2 amazing daughters and feeling that I am missing out on them growing up. Also lack of sleep as there is never enough hours in the day!
Do you feel having children has affected your career?
No, and I feel that I am a better paediatrician because of my children. I was fulltime all the way through my training and my first child arrived during my grace period and then my second 10 months into my first consultant job. In fact the timing of my second child gave me the push I needed to leave that consultant job and apply for my current role so has in fact positively affected my career!
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of a medical career whilst still having time for your children?
When you are with your children switch off from work and emails. Give your children your full attention and spend quality time with them. If you have more than 1 child ensure you set aside 1:1 time for each of them. Another tip is if you don’t have family to help with looking after your children (we don’t) spend time to find an amazing nanny who you can trust and who can be flexible. We have had our wonderful nanny more than 3 years now which means I can concentrate at work and stay late when I need to meaning I can leave work at work and not let it interfere with time with my children.
Do you feel female mentors have helped you manage your expectations or realities of being a paediatrician?
I think both male and female mentors throughout my training have influenced my expectations of being a paediatrician. I was grateful for the advice to work less than full time and to get a nanny though!
Do you think gender makes a difference in work-life?
Achieving a good work-life balance is difficult. My husband and I both work less than full time and equally share parenting and chores. I think it is very dependent on the individual and their partner and extended families expectations.
Would you recommend your job to other working women?
Definitely! I and the majority of my department are lucky enough to work less than full time and we are all flexible and understand and try and facilitate for each other to be at home to watch our children in shows and attend sports days.
What would you say to your 14 year old self?
You can do whatever you want to do! Also I would tell myself to do some work for my GCSE’s!
What would you not survive without?
Chocolate, gin and wine! (joking!) My husband, children and close friends. Also the headspace app so I can practice mindfulness to switch off when I am on call or attending.
Is there anything that particularly helps you when things are getting difficult?
A cuddle from my husband and children is the best antidote when things are hard. As a consultant team we always support each other by frequently checking in and ensuring everyone is fed and watered when attending on the ward as it is generally incredibly intense and exhausting. Outside of work a vigorous swim and a Netflix binge helps me unwind. Also always having the next holiday booked to look forward to and to count down the days towards.