Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine
Tell us about your journey into a medical career?
It was only once I did well in my GCSEs that I thought of medicine as a career and so went straight from A-Levels into Medical school because I enjoyed the sciences and ‘helping people’. I don’t have any medics in my immediate family so was not really aware of the work-life commitments this vocation came with.
When did you decide to do paediatrics?
During medical school, I tutored children from 4-16 years of age as a weekend job and this is what ignited my interest in paediatrics. I loved working with children of various ages and abilities. I enjoyed all my clinical rotations but it was my rotation in paediatrics in the 4th year that confirmed my interest.
When you were a medical student, how did you envisage your life as a doctor?
I had no idea of the reality! I knew there were night shifts and weekends but nothing else. The medics in my family are distant family so I was also not exposed to it! I don’t think I actually thought about it in detail nor did I know about the different pathways eg GP/hospital dr/ academia
How does the reality match or differ from that?
Completely different! I had not thought about what happens after medical school. I didn’t know about the different grades of doctors and what each level meant.
What do you love about your work?
The variety and the fact that I get to play and work at the same time. Love being in the know about the latest trend of TV show or toy. Yes – I’m that person who knows all the Peppa pig episodes and characters and about power rangers! I love going to work every day, working in teams, seeing and having fun with the children and being able to help their parents. Every paediatric patient is different!
What frustrates you about being a working mother?
The timings of the school pick-up does not correlate with working hours, but that’s for any 9-5 job! I want to be able to do my job in a flexible way and still do the school run.
Do you feel having children has affected your career?
Are there positives to that impact?
Most definitely. I’ve used my experiences and feelings to understand a parents’ perspective – their anxieties, the other things that could be running through their head eg. Understanding the parents’ worry with the screaming baby presenting at 3am or how worried the parent must be to bring in any child in the middle of the night from a warm home!
It was great to have a year away from work – not quite a year off but enough to give me time to stop and reflect on my aims, aspirations and my working philosophy
Are there negatives to that impact?
I had children later in my career (32 and 37) so was further up the training ladder and more established, which was a bonus for me. However, the reduced pay with returning part time was definitely a negative point, especially when compared to your peers on full time …..the dream big house seems to be further from reach.
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of a medical career whilst still having time for your children?
Chose realistic goals for your portfolio and go for it. Take your study leave and use it! Book the child care and don’t worry that you don’t see your child every evening – just make sure that when you are with them, you are totally engaged with them (put that mobile phone down!)
Do you feel female mentors have helped you manage your expectations or realities of being a paediatrician?
Definitely – I’ve been fortunate to see the spectrum of working women from women at the top of their career and those who have given up work to be full-time at home. I’ve seen the pros and cons of the spectrum and chosen what balance I would like to aim for.
Do you think gender makes a difference in work-life?
Yes – responsibilities and expectations are different for males and females. Many women are default main carers and run the household so the balance is stretched. For me, trying to get the correct balance is important and sometimes I dont not have a choice because of the responsibilities at home.
Would you recommend your job to other working women?
I’m a consultant now in a job that I love so I will say yes as I’ve ‘made it to the other side’ and because it’s easier to manage my time. However, I would strongly recommend to understand the reality of what you will be missing with the unsocial hours (not just school events but also socials, weddings, birthdays etc.) If I was still a trainee with no control of my time and rota, I think the answer would be no – find an alternative with more social hours.
What would you say to your 14 year old self?
Difficult question as I feel 14 is too young to make a decision about your career and if you want children. I would say open your eyes and look at career options out there and try and get some real exposure and look at the timeline of vocations/careers.
What would you not survive without?
My mother! My mother has been my childcare and has never said no or complained. I would not be where I am in my career, which is directly linked to my confidence and happiness. Without her I fear I would be stuck in less than full time training in a never-ending training post.
Is there anything that particularly helps you when things are getting difficult?
Talking to family, friends or colleagues who understand