She believed she could, so she did
Role models often hide in the background of a trainee’s career, but their role in a trainee’s progression cannot be underestimated throughout the often tumultuous road of training. 20% of ICM consultants are women, in some places there is no female presence within the consultant body at all yet. How then, do we ‘see who we can be’ as female intensivists and where can we seek inspiration.
Firstly, the pioneer. She is now retired and was a consultant anaesthetist and intensivist before ICM was its own specialty. She set up a DGH ICU as a 4 bedded unit, securing space and funding single handedly, a true pioneer. Being the first cannot have been easy and she must have come up against many barriers, the determination and sense of purpose it must have taken to set up the service are impressive. When I started as an ACCS trainee she had a reputation for hawk like attention to detail and subsequent lengthy ward rounds, she had high expectations and was uncompromising. Whilst people may have grumbled about these on occasion, there was a consensus amongst the nurses that if they or anyone in their family were unwell, they would want her to look after them, high praise indeed and something I aspire to. When I find myself in a position where I am out on my own, pushing something forward, I hope I can do her justice.
Next is the cheerleader, the person who wrote something specific and encouraging. This person gave me the foundations to build my career on, something I can look to if I need lifting up. They gave me the confidence to believe in myself and make the choice to follow my career aspirations. This person was my ACCS educational supervisor, they encouraged me into the specialty and wrote the phrase ‘Fran has a natural aptitude for ICM and she should pursue it as a specialty…’. I have since written this feedback for someone else in the hope it has the same effect on her as it did on me. It has highlighted the power of encouragement however small, just to quiet the doubting voices many of us have when thinking about choosing a path. It is always possible to find things to be critical of, things that can be improved upon, this is in our very nature. But an equally important skill is showcasing to someone that what they are already doing is excellent and allow them to recognise their merits. We aren’t always very good at being cheerleaders but we should be, it might change someone’s whole career.
The matriarch is next, a woman who I felt so protected and supported by when I had a complaint. It was my first, and was hugely stressful to me, whilst working in a job where baseline stress was high. She was so robust in her support of me and my actions and the way she made me feel is how I would wish to support my trainees in the future if they are in the same situation: I have got your back, no matter what. This is someone you want supporting you, standing at your shoulder as you go into battle.
The woman who owns her vulnerabilities is last, until recently she was also the first and only female ICM consultant amongst her team. She has now been joined by an equally brilliant woman, she has said that one of the proudest moments in her career was their first ward round together. She has shown me how fantastically compassionate, empathic and sensitive we can be, whilst succeeding in a challenging job. She shares her unknowns and vulnerabilities in a way I hadn’t seen before. I hope to emulate her in some small way to make uncertainty in a specialty full of uncertainty more acceptable.
I am a Mentor
I am a mentor now, for a foundation doctor, recently he told me he wouldn’t have raised concerns about a situation at work without my support. I hadn’t realised the impact of my words, although I probably should have given the effect of the words of those who have supported me. These role models have directly and indirectly shaped the path I have taken and I am hugely grateful for their support and encouragement. The impact that they have had on my career is probably unknown to them, but they have shaped and continue to shape the type of doctor I will become. There is no greater compliment to hear that when I am a Consultant I want to be like you, I hope one day that I will be remembered as a role model to my trainees.
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