Connecting with our future
Dr Amar Rughani: GP principal Chapelgreen Practice, Sheffiled
What is this about?
We are a large (16k) practice on the northern edge of Sheffield that has changed hugely with the loss of the coal and steel industries. Like all GPs we have struggled to meet growing demand and the focus on being ‘providers’ has distracted us from our role as leaders in the community.
As GPs we can’t look after our patients and help them with their needs and problems without the involvement of the whole team, not just the doctors. Despite the workload, our lives are rich and fulfilling and we believe passionately that a career in the NHS is a great way to live a life.
This thinking led us to Ecclesfield School, the largest secondary school in Sheffield, and to the development of a project with the inspiring careers adviser, Lesley Cassell.
Our objectives were:
- To engage with the community and to ‘give something back’ as a practice, in a way that would help the next generation and at the same time reinforce our team’s values;
- To encourage schoolchildren in our area not to write themselves off as potential future doctors. As we prove everyday, you need a good heart but not Einstein’s brain to be a doctor!
- To show that all careers in the NHS are valuable and their variety means that there is something for everyone.
How did we do it?
In the first of the process, at the start of the school year two GPs attended two assemblies for years nine and eleven, as these pupils were thinking actively about career choice. Each assembly included 300 to 400 pupils. The purpose of the visit was to explain the different careers and opportunities available within the health service and the steps the students would need to take to pursue one.
We conducted a survey following this stage, which showed a reasonable level of understanding of the range of career choice and also showed that over 40% would consider a career in the NHS!
The pupils also gave us permission to record their career choice in the future to see if intention was later converted to commitment.
The second visit, two months later, was attended by administration staff, nursing staff and GPs and was open to pupils that attended the first talks and expressed an interest in careers within healthcare. 40 pupils attended along with their parents, for the opportunity to discuss what courses would be required and what advice and experience would be helpful. We were able to connect pupils to individuals who could help them further with advice on, for example, midwifery and sports physiotherapy.
The third stage, in early 2016, will see those pupils who are interested attending the practice to observe it in action across all disciplines. The intention is that seeing how the practice operates will give the pupils a real insight into life, teamwork and a career within primary healthcare.
The final stage will allow a small number of more seriously committed pupils to shadow a member of the team in their specific area of interest for a day, learning in more detail what the job involves and its challenges and rewards.
What have been the benefits?
As a practice, this has really captured our imagination. We decided together that this was an area of work that we wanted to support. There have been many opportunities to get involved at greater or lesser levels of anxiety. People have been courageous. Some of the least confident members of the team put themselves forward for the most challenging tasks, without being pushed to do so and with the intention of helping themselves to develop further as individuals. Some of the newest and youngest members of the team have played an active role, inspired by the opportunity to help a generation close to their own.
The feedback from the school has been very good. The pupils have been stimulated to think more broadly about their possibilities and not to write themselves off from considering some of the more competitive careers.
We have seen how collaborative work between GP practice and local school has multiplied our effectiveness. This has been a very stimulating exercise that has helped to raise morale at a difficult time for primary care. Many feel that the work is important because we are actively helping the children of the community, some of whom are children and grandchildren of our team members. Those involved have grown in confidence and skill and many others have become interested in taking part in the future. As the knowledge and impact of what we do is becoming more widely known, colleagues in other practices are thinking of doing something similar or of engaging in the community in some other way.
We will continue our work and improve the process in response to feedback. Our relationship with the school is growing stronger and new ideas for collaboration will quickly emerge. The latest is to offer our waiting-room walls to the Arts department for the children to creatively express their interpretation of the importance of health and healthcare. So, watch this space…literally!