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A letter from Sussex Place, October 2012

Ian Currie, Honorary Secretary, writes...

This week I had the terrible misfortune of not having a car to get to work. Through no fault of my own I was left car-less. A disaster! I know you are sarcastically thinking ‘that must be so terrible for you’ but suddenly, I realised how dependent we are on aspects of our lives we take for granted. My uniform and structured existence had been sent into utter turmoil just because of the lack of four wheels! What time will I have to leave work for the return journey? How long is the journey home? Will I need a raincoat?... All valid questions I thought. I then began to think that my life was not at all that complicated compared to others. After all I didn’t have to do a school run, wait for the child minder, feed a number of ravenous hungry mouths before I set off for work, or for that matter, stare anxiously at the clock in an operating theatre hoping I will get off work in time to pick up children from playgroup. I realised how oblivious I was to the pressures in life that other people at work have, particularly those with professional demanding jobs and young families. Obstetrics and gynaecology, a female orientated specialty, needs to strive to be more understanding of a work-life balance and work towards initiatives that allow every individual to fulfill their potential whilst still contributing to family life. How we achieve this needs constant attention and this focus does not just apply to trainees. In the UK now there are more female consultants than ever before and that probably applies across the globe.

Whilst on the train to work I looked across at the seat opposite and was surprised to see one of my registrars sitting right next to me. I remember the look of horror appearing across her face as she thought what conversation she might talk to her consultant about for the next fifty minutes. In fact, little did she know I was probably thinking the same! The journey however was a complete surprise. We chatted about careers, family and home; the time went by really quickly. Suddenly I saw a doctor whom I had worked with for a few months as a real person just because I had spent time talking with her and not to her. The conversation was probably more enlightening for me than her I suspect although I got the impression a whistle stop tour through the life of a urogynaecologist was illuminating. When she reads this letter she will be mortified.

Spending time talking about life outside work can be really refreshing. My last GP trainee was a keen photographer and I have just found out this week that my own registrar rides a 1200cc motorbike. I believe you can open up your lives a little while still retaining privacy and respect for each other. Respect for all our colleagues is crucial whatever level of careers they may be. There was a recent report from the GMC, the National Training Survey, which highlighted problems of undermining and bullying in the workplace. There is still plenty to do within our specialty. Let us all try and have respect for each other. After all there is no “I” in team.

Ian Currie
RCOG Honorary Secretary