Pursuing my interest in medical leadership
02 November, 2023
This blog post by Dr Eleanor Swift is part of the 2023 Choose Psychiatry campaign.
I am an ST6 General Adult Psychiatry trainee, working Less Than Full Time (LTFT).
I first became aware of special interest sessions during core training when I heard my higher trainee colleagues discussing what they had picked for theirs.
I was excited by the idea of spending time in an area of particular interest to me and my initial impression was that special interest time was usually used to attend clinics in a different sub-specialty to the one you were placed in.
When I started higher training I discovered that whilst special interest time can certainly be used to broaden your clinical experience, there is actually a whole host of different experiences you can gain from it.
I started thinking about my special interest during discussions with my clinical supervisor. She encouraged me to think about my interests in psychiatry, or medical practice more broadly, which I have little opportunity for in my usual clinical role.
She was very supportive and I began to realise this was an opportunity for me to choose an area which inspires me and I could be creative in how I seek out a special interest.
During my first two years of higher training this led to me doing special interest sessions working with a research team studying the epidemiology of mothers with mental illness and then delivering and evaluating undergraduate medical education.
Becoming interested in medical leadership
As I approached ST6 I started to develop an interest in medical leadership. I had taken on some local leadership roles in my Trust and I really enjoyed being able to improve the working lives of my peers.
I was looking for opportunities to develop in this area and I saw an advert for the RCPsych Leadership and Management Fellowship.
Fellows use special interest time to attend national training days in leadership as well as completing a management project of operational significance to their Trust. I was unsure whether I would be able to participate in the scheme as I work LTFT.
I contacted the College for advice on this and they were very supportive reassuring me that this was not a barrier.
I was awarded sponsorship from my Trust for a place on the scheme and I have loved being able to devote time to an area which interests me so much.
I have led on a digital innovation project in my Trust, putting my leadership and management skills into practice and have networked with senior medical leaders locally and nationally.
I negotiated how to fit my special interest into my working week with my clinical supervisors. Full time trainees have a day a week for special interest so I am able to take time pro rata to a full time trainee, ie. 80% of a day a week. I currently take a half day most weeks for my project work and a full day to complete the monthly leadership study days.
I feel really lucky to have had this opportunity, enabling me to build leadership and management skills to a high level that will be useful for my consultant career.
I would encourage colleagues starting higher training to think broadly about your interests and not to be afraid to suggest a special interest that is outside the box, as in my experience supervisors and the College are supportive in helping you get the opportunities which will benefit your career.
Dr Eleanor Swift, ST6 in General Adult Psychiatry
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