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Meet the team | relaxing recommendations | love what you do

In her August blog, Dr Hilary Williams, RCP vice president for Wales asks our regional advisers how they spend their time off and why they chose medicine in the first place. Bookings for the Cardiff RCP Update in medicine are now open, plus download our latest ‘In conversation with…’ video podcast with Dr Olwen Williams. 

As I write this, it’s finally sunny outside. I hope that this means people are enjoying some time off – perhaps a day out with the kids or a walk with the dogs? Are you out on the hills or at the beach? Maybe you’re enjoying some quiet time spent in the garden.

Wherever you are, August in the NHS is an odd time. We hope it will be a quieter month, a chance to recharge, but of course, for our trainees it’s all change. So, a warm welcome to junior doctor colleagues joining us in Wales and those starting their journey into higher specialty training. To the new medical registrars out there – we are all behind you! Most of us have been the ‘med reg’ at some point and it remains one of – probably the most – pivotal and challenging roles in the hospital. Being the ’med reg’ means taking a very solid knowledge base and combining it with an ability to take rapid decisions based on a multitude of factors; and above all, leading a team in a safe and effective way to provide high-quality patient care.

Medicine is all about teamwork, so welcome also to our new foundation doctors who are joining us after many years of exams, revision, work experience and commitment; to our new specialty, associate specialist and locally employed doctors; our international medical graduates, and our new consultants. Every single one of you plays a vital role in the Welsh NHS, and whether you trained locally, somewhere else in the UK, or internationally, you are part of – and have a voice in – the Welsh physician community. Despite turbulent times, being a doctor is still an incredible privilege and our patients need us more than ever.

In this bulletin, I’ll be profiling the RCP team in Wales, starting with our regional advisers and New Consultants Committee (NCC) representative – Dr Vivek Goel (south-east Wales), Dr Sam Rice (south-west Wales), Dr Ben Thomas (north Wales), Dr Andrew Lansdown (south Wales central) and Dr Justyna Witczak (NCC). To start with, I asked the team for their advice to new starters. What follows is a selection of their wisdom:

‘Enjoy your work. Be proud of being one of the best doctors in the hospital – it’s an amazing skill set … Fall in love with medicine and be passionate … Take the opportunity to learn procedures, ask questions and ask for help and advice … Clear and comprehensive documentation will ultimately save you and your consultant time … Effective teamwork can take the stress out of a lot of challenging scenarios.  Get to know your intensive care colleagues and the experienced nurses – they often know who everyone is and how the hospital really works … Don’t feel under pressure to know everything as the ‘med reg’ – it’s okay to ask for help … Be kind to yourself – we are only as good as we can be. Good enough is fantastic, perfection is impossible … Leave work at work … Remember the times you made a difference – it’s more often than you think. Medicine is brilliant.’

The team in Wales is proud of our strong relationship with the clinical workforce – our fellows and members on the ground. We proactively visit hospitals – both as a college and with Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) – asking about the challenges facing those delivering acute medical care. We want to hear about your experiences running outpatient clinics, teaching junior doctors, and leading quality improvement and research projects. The more we listen to you, the better we can represent you. Never hesitate to contact Lowri.Jackson@rcp.ac.uk with any concerns.

This month, I asked our regional advisers and NCC representative how they chose their specialty. Justyna answered first: ‘I chose endocrinology because it feels like detective work. It’s mentally stimulating, enjoyable and feels like solving a puzzle,’ while Sam added ‘endocrinology is interesting, it’s patient focused, and you rarely get a question out of hours!’ Andrew agreed: ‘endocrinology is logical. It stays interesting and there’s always something new to learn.’ Asked why he chose gastroenterology, Vivek told me, ‘it’s all about the procedures,’ while Ben, a renal consultant, considers kidney disease the ‘last bastion of general medicine’.

As a team, we have trained and worked across Wales, Scotland, England, India and Poland, but we all agree on why we choose to work in Wales: it’s about the teamwork, the colleagues, and the close-knit medical community who support each other. Everybody knows everybody else: it’s a friendly place to work and learn, with plenty of camaraderie. The small size of Wales means we have real power locally to make a difference nationally and make real change beyond our own site.

It's not just about clinics, wards and teaching though. How about time off? I asked Vivek, Sam, Ben, Andrew and Justyna for their recommendations: how do they relax when they’re not at work?

Ben, who works in Wrexham in north Wales, told me he loves the view from Tenby across to the lifeboat station, best enjoyed with some Welsh cakes fresh off the griddle while listening to a podcast, the Stereophonics or watching the cricket. Sam, who works in Llanelli in south-west Wales, couldn’t choose his favourite view: ‘there are loads,’ he says, ‘Three Cliffs Bay, Rhossili, Aberdyfi Harbour, Mawddach Estuary… they are all pretty special for a run on the beach.’ To wind down, he highly recommends a pint of Gower Gold or maybe a glass of Barti Ddu rum, which is infused with Pembrokeshire laver seaweed, accompanied by cakes from the café in Pennard.

Vivek who works in Gwent, south-east Wales, chose a drive through mid-Wales as his holiday destination of choice, plus a pint of Brains and a leisurely afternoon spent reading a newspaper. Andrew, who works in Cardiff, also chose Tenby Harbour for a homemade Welsh cake and a cup of tea, and a session in the gym at the end of a long day in the NHS. Finally, Justyna, currently on maternity leave but also based in Cardiff, chose a long walk with her family and dog, Simba, preferably in waterfall country in the Bannau Brycheiniog, followed by cannoli in Penarth.

As the summer holidays draw to a close, I want you all to remember what amazing jobs you do. Try to hang on to that when the days seem long, another shift looms, and the challenges of working in the NHS feel intractable. Please use your annual leave – take time away from work and maybe even use our recommendations on where to find the best views and cakes in Wales. Or send us yours? I am already planning my trip to the Mawddach Estuary with a bottle of Welsh rum.

Dr Hilary Williams
RCP vice president for Wales