The Story of the Good Colleague

Following the Maurice Ellis lecture given by Professor Rick Body at the 2017 Spring CPD conference of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, I decide to write this post.

Apologies to Rick for presenting him as some sort of Messiah (clearly he’s not, he’s just a very naughty boy) and to Luke for twisting his writing to make my own point.  However, given Luke is traditionally believed to have been a doctor, I’m hoping he’ll be generous towards a colleague!


The Story of the Good Colleague

At a certain meeting where The Professor stood and talked, one of the crowd of experts asked. “Teacher, what must we do to have long careers? How are we going to survive when so many of us are burning out?”

The Professor said: “What did I say in my lecture?  Were you not listening?  Did not the slides illustrate the points beautifully?  Tell me what you heard?”

The expert answered: “Be Kind. Stay Strong. Be Happy.”

“You have answered correctly,” he replied.  “Do these things and you’ll be a good colleague.”

But the expert was a consultant in a busy Emergency Department and wanted some clarity, so he asked The Professor, “And who is my colleague?”

In reply The Professor said: “A Foundation Doctor was working one weekend when all of a sudden she was robbed of all joy in her work.  The middle grade who was down to work went off sick, the IT system was off line (again) and there seemed to be patients coming out of every nursing and care home in the surrounding lands without any discussion on DNACPRs.  Finally, she forgot to check a blood result and a patient came to harm, ending up on Intensive Care, so she knew she would be the subject of an SUI.  By Monday morning the Foundation Doctor was sat on a bench in the foyer of the hospital staring into the distance, half dead, wondering why she had thought being a doctor was a good idea in the first place.

Her Clinical Supervisor arrived at that point.  She was a good supervisor, her own trainees had said so in feedback, and though she saw the Foundation Doctor sitting there, as she was late for her clinic, she hurried by, anxious that her patients wouldn’t be kept waiting.

Next our doctor’s Educational Supervisor came past.  He had a job at the Deanery and had studied the texts on supervision, he even had the up to date CPD certificates to prove it.  He saw the Foundation doctor sat staring into space but as he was late for a lecture on the new ePortfolio system and how it could be linked to curriculum competencies, he too passed her by.

But then a consultant from a completely different specialty came by.  She was on her way home from a night shift but when she saw the young doctor her heart was moved and she took pity on her.  She sat down beside her and said, “Are you all right love?  You look beaten?  Is there something I could do to help?”  The young doctor broke down and began crying and whilst this made the consultant quite uncomfortable she stayed with the doctor, took her to get a cup of coffee and listened to her talk for a while.  Before they went home, the consultant gave the Foundation Doctor her bleep number, her office number and even her personal mobile number saying, “If you ever feel like that again, ever, call me, I want to know!’  And so, after that, any time that consultant saw the young doctor over the coming months and years, she would always ask her how she was, what had gone well that day and what she was planning to do when she next had some time off.

“Which of these do you think was a colleague to the Foundation Doctor who was struggling?”

The expert said, “The one who was kind to her.”

The Professor told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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