In this blog, Dr Claire Cullen, former RA 2015–2021, shares her experience of being a regional adviser in Merseyside.
I grew up in a small east Yorkshire village. I don’t ever recall aspiring to be a doctor as a child; it didn’t feel like a career that was obtainable for someone from a working-class background. My aunt and nanna were both nurses. My nanna worked in one of the old-fashioned institutions that was in our village, caring for women and children. I would visit her work occasionally and I wonder if this is what first sparked an interest in healthcare.
I excelled at maths and science at school and went onto college to do A-Levels; it was there a tutor suggested that I apply for medicine. I went to medical school in Liverpool. A big city was such a different experience from my life before and I struggled to feel like I fitted in. I stayed in Liverpool to train and from the moment I started my first senior house officer (SHO) job in stroke medicine, I knew I wanted to pursue the specialty as a career. I can remember my consultant feeding her patients on ward rounds and knowing that she was the type of doctor I wanted to be too.
I’ve been a stroke consultant since 2010, balancing this with being training programme director for geriatrics, clinical director of my specialty, regional adviser (RA) and most importantly being a single mum to my 9-year-old gymnast. As a new consultant, I gained valuable training and education experience and an understanding of how the RCP worked by being an RCP tutor.
I have been an RA in Mersey from 2015 to 2021 and I have been able to contribute to a variety of activities and expansion of the regional network. I regularly review job descriptions, attend regional and national college meetings, have involvement in fellowship grading and have been able to attend trust visits.
Of particular importance to me is the development of our regional teaching and conferences. We have evolved to make events more modern and inclusive with a wide range of diverse speakers more representative of the modern medical workforce. We have introduced topics such as homelessness health and gender identity and ensured we have regular presentations from trainees.
As I have had in my career, it is important that trainees have visible role models that they can relate to.
I would encourage anyone to look at being an RA; not only can you make a valuable contribution to the RCP but you will find the role will be worthwhile for your own personal development.