From paediatrics in Libya to GP training in Manchester

I came to the UK from Libya in 2014 to study for a master's degree. After I finished my study, I decided to return to my country, but because of the armed conflict, I had to claim asylum in the UK.

It took about a year to obtain my refugee status and settlement. I moved to Manchester and began my journey with REACHE with one target of obtaining a GMC registration.

REACHE are an organisation in North West England set up to assist Refugee and asylum seeking Healthcare Professionals (RHPs) to register their qualifications in the UK.

Additional training

First, we were advised to attend classes and engage in voluntary work to help us practice the English language. For this, I was directed to two organisations that support refugees. In 2018 I passed the English test and started preparation for the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) test.

I also had a great opportunity to learn about medical updates in different specialties and medical ethics, as well as improving my communication skills. We also had the opportunity to present different medical topics in the sessions in order to improve our teaching and presentation skills and we used to receive feedback for improvement. As part of my preparation, I also had a 5-week clinical attachment post at Salford Royal Hospital. This opportunity I believe was good to improve my communication skills with patients and medical staff and helped me prepare for PLAB. Luckily, I passed both parts of the PLAB test and was able to register with the GMC in June 2021.

I then had a 4-month clinical practice training (CPT) at Salford Royal Hospital - a golden opportunity to get some clinical experience in the UK.

Entering GP training

I started thinking about applying for a job that fit my previous experience as a paediatrician. I had to either start training from the beginning, which is difficult, or accept work at a level lower than my experience, and this is not fair.

Through our discussion with the tutors in REACHE I realised that general practice might be an appropriate specialty in terms of the period of training as well as creating a balance between social and professional life, and the possibility of gaining a special interest in paediatrics which fit my expertise. After much thought, I eventually felt that GP might be the best option for me.

I applied for GP Specialty training and started my training in August 2021. The beginning was enjoyable in my first GP placement. Now I am in A&E placement; it is a busy department, but I am trying to enjoy my training journey to the end.

All I wish now is to get the support that will help me overcome the challenges during the training period, in addition to passing my RCGP exams. Finally, if I can, I hope to continue to gain a special interest in paediatrics in the future.

Support from REACHE

Honestly, I consider myself fortunate to be a member of REACHE to have these opportunities that would be difficult to get without their support. I had multiple clinical and non-clinical sessions from REACH clinical tutors. For example, writing reflections, interview skills, job search methods, medical ethics, good medical practice, and medical insurance.

REACHE's support was not only financial or educational but psychological, social and emotional. I will never forget when I suffered from homesickness and missed my family, how they arranged an appointment for me with one of their volunteer psychotherapists who helped me to overcome it.

They also helped me communicate with the job centre and Salford council about my housing, gave me a mentor to help me in the next steps of my career, and directed me to many organisations where I could seek help or funding to pursue my training.

Perhaps one of the loveliest things was that some REACHE staff attended my wedding!

About the writer

Dr Suma F. F. is a doctor from Libya with 20 years of experience in paediatrics.