Sparking an interest in psychiatry
The first time
At medical school, one of the days I
remember the best was walking onto a psychiatry ward for the first
time. The environment was completely different to the strip-lit and
uniformed wards of the general hospital, and the atmosphere seemed
charged (my first instinct was to blame static electricity
resulting from cheap trousers).
After finding a willing patient, I
presented my examination findings to a consultant, who then
proceeded to unnerve me by demonstrating the ability to accurately
anticipate/cold-read the patient’s background. Although I have
since realised that this ability is based on experience (as in many
medical specialties, sheer volume of clinical work leads to pattern
recognition), when the placement concluded with a visit to a high
security hospital, I left intrigued.
Following graduation I
found myself immersed in the cut-and-thrust of accident and
emergency medicine and was content for a good while. Slowly though,
I began to notice that patients’ lives and stories would largely
pass by, undigested like conveyor belt sushi. Eventually I decided
to leave and apply for core psychiatric training (CPT).
Why don’t you become a social
Having recently completed
CPT, I find myself wondering why the difficulties with recruitment
and retention in psychiatry are so severe? For sure, the specialty
has more to offer medical students than learning how to arrange
chairs for an interview.
profess and maintain an interest in people and thus shrug-off a
classic retort favoured by medical school interview panels: “why
don’t you become a social worker then?” Psychiatry is as
complex and challenging as human nature and has an unrivalled
capacity to create novel and sometimes inspiring situations,
ranging from sad to funny and despairing to hopeful.
As your training
progresses, you are privileged to note that the human condition
applies to us all and you learn how to listen and communicate
effectively, contain your own and other’s anxiety and develop the
ability to think on your feet.
Even if you don’t choose
psychiatry as a career, the skills and experiences gained will have
lasting value, wherever you end up.
Dr David Brunskill
Specialty Registrar in forensic psychiatry