The WICM 10 – Pt. 2

Kate Flavin, Sarah Marsh, Liz Thomas, Christine Watson, Danny Bryden

Welcome to Part 2 of January’s WICM Blog .

In order to commemorate FICM’s 10th Anniversary WICM have produced a collaborative blog celebrating 10 role models of 10 WICM members.

The blog this month has come in two instalments covering the 10 articles, part two is below for you to enjoy.

My Role Model by Dr Kate Flavin

I have struggled to narrow my list of potential role models down, as I have been fortunate enough to work with some incredible colleagues. However, I settled on Nick because his guidance and caring approach towards me has meant a great deal over the last few years.

I first met Nick when I was doing my intermediate ICM training on the Adult Critical Care Unit at the Royal London Hospital. I was a fish out of water with no prior experience of major trauma. Nick was friendly and approachable; he was keen to teach us and loosened the reins as I gained confidence. When I went back as an advanced trainee, he greeted me with a big smile and a hug and I knew then that I was embarking on the best year of my training. Nick continually gave me advice and feedback during that year, and his support helped shape me into the doctor and person I am today.

The standout moment in our working relationship was about a month before my CCT, when I was involved in a serious incident during a night shift. Nick, who wasn’t on call, phoned me the following evening (and the one after) to offer some words of comfort and encouragement. His empathy and compassion was incredibly touching, and the feeling of support in that moment is something that I will not forget.

He has always been my champion and a friendly ear and voice of reason to me, even when I shed a few tears at my leaving do after my advanced year! We have stayed in touch since my CCT, and I am lucky to call this lovely man my friend.

To me, Nick is inspirational in his kindness towards patients, relatives and colleagues, and in his intellect, passion and approachability. He is fiercely supportive of his juniors. He is a devoted husband and dad, and catching snippets of him Face Timing his twins was a very entertaining and heart-warming highlight of our on-calls together. He always joked that I wanted to be like him when I grew up: now I have admitted in print that that is true!

Nick Bunker is a Consultant in ICM and Anaesthesia at the Royal London Hospital

My Role Models by Dr Sarah Marsh

I have taken many things from many people over the years, but there have been a few in particular that have shaped the way I am today. I thought therefore I would compile something a little different to the brief of writing about just one role model;

To the female intensivist who encouraged me to believe in myself and to put myself out there, telling me “you don’t know what you can accomplish until you try”. She showed me that you can achieve a great work life balance with a family and a job that you love, attain excellence in your career and contribute to the future of ICM, whilst still having the time for internet shopping. By listening, guiding and coaching she has steered me along the undulating pathway from being a medical student to consultant and beyond – an example I hope to repay forward.

To the steely anaesthetic senior registrar, whose might was not reflected by her stature. First met preparing to intubate by standing on a step to reach a patient, she taught me how to command respect, to lead with integrity and to not take any **** from anyone, and all done with humour and a twinkle in her eye. She also set me on a pathway to maximise my training at that time, which set up my career for later years. She had no fear and instilled a determination in me that remains steadfast today. 

To the anaesthetic consultant who taught me about research and showed me how to achieve in ways I had not imagined were possible. A mix of glamour and intelligence, she was kind and generous with her time and invested both in me. 

And finally to two further ICM consultants – both who would ask me “What can I do to help you today?”  A very short but powerful sentence that made all the difference on some days and one that I use to this day with the whole team.

So thank you all for shaping, moulding and encouraging me along my journey.  You have in your own ways taught me to be kind, compassionate, determined and above all that; you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

My Role Model by Dr Liz Thomas

My first ICM placement was in 2007 as an SHO2 in a busy district general hospital. One of the female ICU consultants was particularly inspiring. She was College Tutor for Anaesthesia, had two small children and worked full time. It was a difficult time for training, with MTAS going on, and her enthusiasm and support for the trainees stuck in the middle of it was unrelenting. She was also a brilliant ICU consultant – delivering the highest standard of care to all patients, making difficult but evidence-based and sensible decisions and communicating with families with clarity, compassion and empathy. During this placement I decided to dual train in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine.

Fast forward 13 years and I am now a consultant working in the same hospital. I am so proud to have Dr Cindy Hardy as my colleague, as she continues to be a source of support and a wise ear. This is clinically, personally and managerially.

Back in 2007, I was inspired by the way Cindy looked after trainees, balanced everything, delivered her clinical work and talked about her family with pride and joy. Now, in 2020, I am still impressed by her ‘can do’ nature, her clinical excellence (she really is a brilliant ICU consultant) and her personal support to me as a colleague and friend.

Liberty through singing – the power of work-life balance by Dr Christine Watson

As a registrar in Anaesthesia and ICM, I used to imagine what my life would be like when I became a consultant; I dreamt of all the time I would have to re-invigorate all of those interests outside of medicine, which had dwindled to nothing over the years of training and exams. Just over 2 years ago (5 years into my consultant career!), I found myself increasingly examining my work-life balance (or lack of it) and the impact it was having on my mental health. After a lot of prompting from my husband and a well-timed advert in a local newspaper, I made a leap of faith and joined a local community choir…

Meet ‘Liberty Singer’ or Kari Olsen-Porthouse. Kari is a freelance choir director with a background in performing arts, psychology and music teaching who left teaching in 2017 to devote her time to choirs and singing full time. In 2018, she started a community choir, “The West Bridgford Liberty Singers” that regularly attracts over 100 members. In addition, she runs two smaller chamber type choirs and workplace singing workshops as part of well-being initiatives.  

Kari believes strongly in the power of singing and its ability to foster friendships, community and improved mental health. The sense of positivity and camaraderie experienced from attending her choirs is undeniable. She has a unique way of making music and singing accessible while at the same time aspiring to and achieving a high standard of sound and performance from her choirs. Meeting and singing with Kari has had a significant positive impact on my work-life balance, pulling me into a world outside of medicine and helping me to re-balance my priorities. Whatever your hobby might be, find something that sparks joy in your life and keep doing it; it just might change your life for the better.

My Role model by Dr Danny Bryden

Role models. I have come across many encouraging, influential people in my life and career, but only one who I believe continues to inspire me. Paul Gerrish.

I arrived in Sheffield as a new ICM consultant, and Paul was my mentor and friend. I was the first female consultant in South Yorkshire for many years, and had never trained in the region, an outsider. Paul took me under his wing, and enthusiastically taught me how to be a consultant. Intelligent, compassionate and driven by a desire to do the right thing: the ultimate team worker who seemingly knew everyone and had his finger in so many pies.

A social butterfly, people from all disciplines came to him for advice and friendship. In return he took enormous pleasure in others’ success, whether they had taken his advice or not! He was famous for his high standards, lengthy ward rounds and even lengthier emails. An iconoclast, who did not hold back if something (or someone) had upset him.

Some people have suggested that it is wrong to address the needs of women in ICM, as if doing so holds back the promotion of other groups. I think back to how Paul encouraged and advised anyone who needed help, irrespective of gender or professional background. His skills were augmented by supporting individuals to achieve their own potential, and he became better able to develop others as a result.

Paul was forced to leave work early due to the illness that eventually stole the long and active retirement he had planned. I miss him, but I hope a tiny part of his influence lives on in me.