Calling all paediacademiatricians…

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 🙂


4 thoughts on “Calling all paediacademiatricians…

  1. Great idea Carmen.

    The challenge here is two fold:

    1. The platform – needs to be agile, accessible and low up keep. While this is self evident it is often overlooked that the problem with social media is that there is now so much choice it is difficult to keep up to date. While a website is easy – will the whole group look daily at it? How will you know when something gets posted? Who will post something? This sounds a bit negative but I have twice been to events where a group of us have got very excited about creating a supportive network only for it to fall by the wayside. There needs to not only be one person to keep the energy and flame going but also people to feedback to them to avoid them feeling even more lonely…!

    2. The reason. What is this really for? I would argue that what is really needed is 24/7 mentorship – someone to turn to when you paper is rejected (again), your grant application that you have been working on for 6 minutes isn’t event short-listed, the ground breaking piece of research you have just finished the results section for is published in a high impact journal by another research group. Or simply just someone to moan at as you missed the work night out because you haven’t been on the shop floor for a couple of weeks.

    I’d start with a hashtag; discriminatory against those not on twitter but they’ll adopt eventually 🙂

    #childadaemia or #CHacademiclife (Child Health Academic life) would be open to all, not just paediatricians, as a place to ask questions, share stories, learn from experiences etc…

    • Thanks Damian. The only thing I’d question is the “mentorship” description. This is anything but mentorship: no fixed rules, no formal agreements about how & when to access. It’s peer support

      • You are entirely right – loose language from me.

        However while the coaching and mentor purists will now never speak to me again I don’t think I am going to ever change my belief or experience that my best mentors have nearly always been my peers…

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