My partner will quite happily tell you that I am very, very good at seeing nuance in the words that people use. On a really bad day, I’m quite capable of turning “hello” into an existential crisis (and all before he’s had a chance to drink his tea…).
The language that we use matters. This is one of the things that I’ve taken from the fab work that #MatExp have been doing – all those phrases and terms that we use as healthcare professionals without thinking – and the impact they have on the people hearing them.
I keep thinking about how much I’ve learnt from doing this PhD. All the opportunities that I’ve had to talk to people that I just don’t have when I’m at work. (And lets be honest, it’s the talking that I really love about my job). And how much of a culture shock it’s been.
And maybe I’ve got just a little bit complacent.
Because now I’m writing up results. In formal, PhD-acceptable, academic language. And as I’m writing, all those things that I thought I’d learnt about are flying out the window. I find myself using words like “compliance” to talk about the decisions that families make. I’m writing more approvingly if the families and professionals agree about issues. I’m writing about how “difficult” it is for professionals if families dare to disagree with them…
One of the reasons that I like the e-portfolio emphasis on reflection is that it makes me write. And as I write, it helps me think. Hopefully, thinking will help me change what I do.
PhD writing is making me realise how much more there is to change.
Starting with an epic re-write of my current chapter… #hownottogetaPhD
The one thing I’ve realised as an academic trainee over the past 8 years (that went quickly) is that it’s very easy to become quite isolated. I think this is something that all trainees experience: we rotate around every 4 – 6 months; you rarely meet your peers apart from at occasional training days; and you’re not even on-call with other people from your speciality. Apparently there’s something called a “doctor’s mess” in our hospital, but it’s over on the adult side and I’ve never been able to get there.
Add in the academic side of training, and things can get much worse. For one thing, we’re even more scattered (I work with colleagues in the same department, but in different buildings on campus); and we work even more bizarre shift patterns because of trying to combine the academic and clinical commitments. This either means that you have blocks of time where you only see your research team; blocks of time where you only see your clinical team; or entire years where you don’t really get to know anybody properly because you split your time between two completely different spheres.
It leads to problems. It can lead to isolation and a general feeling that you have no idea what you’re doing. It leads to more practical issues, like not knowing when the application dates close for College exams or what your status is with the junior doctor contracts. It means that you miss out on learning opportunities and experiences, just because you can’t find people in a similar situation.
I know that some places have regular get-togethers for their clinical academics, but I still don’t think that’s enough. We work in increasingly specialised fields – the people having similar challenges to you might not be in the same University or even Deanery – but I’m sure they’re out there. If you’re in a small unit, then the people around you may also be your supervisors and mentors… Not always an easy situation to discuss ideas or have a mini-panic in.
So, I suggest that we set-up a network of paediacademiatricians (something similar to our local group). I don’t know what it looks like yet, but it has to be more accessible than face-to-face. Meetings are lovely, but they can’t be the only option for trainees with complex rotas based all around the country with night shifts!
What would work? A website for basic information (conferences; exams; contact details for peer support)?? Regular twitter chats? (with a shorter hashtag than #paediacademiatrician)
Please help. Let me know what you want it to look like.
And then watch this space 🙂