Supporting our Trainees
Mahua Chakrabarti is a Specialty Trainee in General Surgery based in Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Here she writes in her capacity as Chair of the Trainee Committee about her experience of the College and her plans for the coming year.
Q. WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES FOR TRAINEES TODAY AND WHY?
The training of trainee doctors has changed tremendously over the last two decades. This can be attributed to multiple factors including changes in training policy, NHS austerity and a shift in trainee aspirations to a better quality of work-life balance. Most recently the attrition of junior doctors after their FY2 year has highlighted the multiple reasons why many doctors do not want to continue training in the UK. The working culture of the NHS has reduced staff morale as trainee doctors feel underappreciated, are exposed to bullying and harassment and increasing rates of burnout. Austerity has led to simple things such as doctors' messes being removed and more demands from less resources. Trainees are expected to be trained over a shorter period of time into generalists to cope with the changing demographics of the population. These circumstances have led to issues arising with trainee wellbeing, poor education and training, challenging governmental policies and GMC regulations as well as maintaining a work-life balance.
Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SOLUTIONS ARE TO THESE?
Delivering solutions to these issues is not easy. As trainees we see that we have to raise our voice to allow our opinions and circumstances to be heard. Many influential groups from the Royal Colleges and the GMC to the government are trying to tackle some of these problems directly. Forums are made, trainees are invited to meetings and surveys are taken. Changes at grassroot level are small but meaningful and maybe as well as changing policies to protect trainee doctors we should be encouraging these small changes to be adopted by more hospitals rather than keep redesigning the wheel.
Q. WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE COLLEGE TO DATE?
My own experience of the College has expanded over many years. Initially as an undergraduate affiliate, the College allowed me to attend meetings and even present at some. This continued into postgraduate training where I gained essential surgical and acute care skills through courses, eventually leading to membership. More recently, having experienced the difficulties faced by trainees from a BME background, being a female who may ask for maternity leave or less than full time training as well as being labelled a ‘doctor in difficulty’, has allowed me to reflect on how processes we go through are so very inadequate and stressful. The College Trainee Committee introduced me to how trainees can act as agents of change, through the College as well as at national levels through other associations such as the Royal Academy of Medical Colleges. We give trainee representation at multiple organisations. I found that rather than using my small voice which did not make an iota of difference, the kudos of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow certainly made me heard.
Q. WHAT HAS THE COLLEGE DONE WELL FOR TRAINEES AND WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED UPON?
The College has always had an outstanding variety and quality of courses and meetings. GESTS and Medicine 24 have been extremely successful with international speakers making them go to meetings every year. I do think that there are areas that can be expanded and improved upon. For example, many College members have expressed their request for a website that allows for more free resources for teaching, webinars and updates. A more holistic approach to trainee engagement could be adopted. This allows a community and connection amongst trainees which is lacking in some hospitals. The College already sponsors a Scottish Clinical Leadership Fellow and elements of this type of leadership opportunity could be used to encourage leadership in trainees.
Q. WHAT IS THE TRAINEE COMMITTEE AND CURRENTLY HOW MANY MEMBERS ARE THERE?
Our Trainee Committee itself has recently increased in core numbers from 16 to 25. And we’re always looking for new members. We encourage as many trainees to join as possible to work as ambassadors for change along with the core committee. We meet four times a year and communicate outside this to allow important issues to be discussed. We have representatives from the BMA, ASIT and BOTA but also send representatives of our committee to other meetings to make our opinions known. The committee has been in existence for many years with progressive changes continually being made. However with the increasing pressures and stresses being put on to trainees it has to be more inclusive and representative to allow issues to be raised. I hope as many trainees as possible at every level are encouraged to join the College and take advantage of their own potential to make meaningful changes to fellow trainees.
Q. WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES OF THE TRAINEE COMMITTEE OVER THE COMING YEAR?
The priorities for the College Trainee Committee initially is to grow in numbers and representation. This in turn will allow working groups to focus on streams of developments and campaigns that are important to us. We would like to see changes and new connections to influential people in healthcare to facilitate this. We remain a community of trainees with a passion for medicine but also a code of practice that new trainees can see as a role model to follow.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR OWN PRIORITIES?
As the Chair of the Trainee Committee at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, I see my role as encouraging as many trainees to be involved in trainee welfare and education as possible. Having a true representation of what the trainee community is, allows our voice to mean more. The College gives us a platform to meet these multiple issues with innovative, well-planned changes that the people experiencing the issues have come up with. My priority is to align the motivated to their choice of campaign. This way we can deal with bullying, discrimination, change in shape of training and wellbeing more robustly from local to national levels.
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This article is taken from the Winter edition of voice, our College membership magazine. You can download your copy now.