Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Consultants: Why a good one is essential for new FY1s

I must say I am a blessed man. I have a roof over my head and a career that will provide for myself and a future family ahead of me (unless of course I do something plain stupid and get struck off).

However, most of my colleagues are in a similar position. Everything is looking good for now. So what about actually being in work?

I am lucky to have a rather superb consultant in charge of our Care of the Elderly team. Not only does he have an undying need to make sure each and every one of his patients gets the best care they could possibly get, but he goes about it in the most amiable, upbeat and pleasant way you possibly could. This being on top of the fact he is responsible for no less than 40 inpatients (in a small DGH) with clinics and suchlike and a very small team to back him up.

It's a pleasure to work with him. He helps out as much as he can, he makes himself available to chat at all hours (one of the first things he did was give me his mobile number and told me to call him "any time"). Most importantly, he treats all his team as equals, himself included. I feel invigorated and eager to work with him. Yes he'll point out what you've done wrong, but in a way you will do nothing but learn from the situation and become a better doctor.

"And ye shall be cast into the firey pits of FAILURE!"
Now, contrast that with a consultant who I was under at medical school. A polar opposite more obvious there could not be. Like most doctors, he cared for his patients, however, his treatment of his colleagues (read "underlings" in his mind) was nothing short of appalling. Regularly reducing the students to tears with his overly brutal approach to junior education, making a mockery of staff and student alike in front of each other and even patients was the order of the day. He wasn't even part of the "old guard" of consultants who were simply "God". He simply was inserting his head slowly into an anatomical region with enough of a chip on his shoulder that the entire product line of Heinz tomato ketchup could not satisfactorily cover it.

Now, for someone like me, it made me work harder. When he told me in an assessment, "I hold no hope for you and I wouldn't count yourself amongst next semester's cohort," (which was apparently quite light going by some of the things he told my colleagues) it drove me to work much harder to go "I'll show you". I promptly merited my OSCEs.

However, it drove some of my colleagues to tipping point. One student who was otherwise high-flying crashed in their OSCEs. It, as expected, turned out to be the one blotch on their otherwise sterling medical school career.

At the end of the day, the work needs to be done, the lessons need to be learnt. As an F1, it is the role of Dr Jr and his colleagues to learn and take point from many of the consultants we will work with in years to come. I'm lucky to have such a good one. If any consultants are reading this, remember, the F1s will be tomorrow's consultants - we don't want to be gods, please don't teach us it's the only way to do things.

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