It is fair to say I have been around for a while! I graduated from medical school in 1997, and after completing my ‘house-officer’ year, I went straight into psychiatry training. Psychiatry was always what I wanted to do, so the decision was easy. At the start of my training, I also got married, and not long after we decided to start a family. It soon became apparent that working, studying for exams and looking after a baby, then a toddler, was not a good combination. When baby number two came along things got even harder. At times the challenge seemed insurmountable.
There was exhaustion, there were tears, there were tantrums (and not just from the children).
I contemplated leaving medicine all together, but a career in psychiatry remained my true passion. Eventually I decided that I needed to step back from training for a while. So, I became an SAS doctor, what was at the time known as a ‘staff grade’. Over the years I went on to have six children (yes six!) and I chose not to return to training. I moved from staff grade to specialty doctor and eventually became a specialist doctor in 2021.
I have seen the role of SAS doctor evolve in so many positive ways during that time.
From what was once seen as dead-end role solely for service provision, to a new career choice, with plenty of options for career development and progression. It hasn’t always been easy, and I have had to overcome many challenges. I have had to fight for recognition along the way. There are some hurdles which remain and some stigma which still needs to be broken down. But I am now in a role I love in a trust where I feel well supported and valued. (Also, my youngest child is now 15, and 4 of them have left home, so some sort of calm is almost returning!)
In 2022, I was delighted to be appointed as the first SAS advocate for Sheffield Health and Social Care (SHSC). I felt honoured to have been given the opportunity to support other SAS doctors within the organisation and to help them get the best from their jobs and careers. It is an exciting and innovative time to be in this role within SHSC. There are now eight doctors on specialist grade contracts within the trust, which represents an impressive 38 per cent of the SAS workforce. This demonstrates SHSC’s commitment to supporting SAS doctors’ development. SAS doctors are encouraged to take on leadership roles and this is supported by SHSC’s organisational endorsement with the faculty of medical leadership and management. The medical and executive leadership team work collaboratively with both me and the SAS tutor to explore ways to maximise SAS doctors’ potential.
SAS doctors are encouraged to follow their special interests and contribute various areas of expertise to their clinical teams.
There is an active Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) programme with identified CESR mentors. Recently one of our SAS doctors has been supported to take part in the Royal College of Psychiatrists Approved Clinician pilot scheme.
During SAS Week at SHSC we came together for a special SAS doctors’ lunch and celebrated all of our SAS doctors, being thankful for how far we have come, and looking forward to where the journey takes us next.