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Debra’s insights – walking in the doctor’s shoes

Debra Wheeler, general manager for the Yorkshire and Humber Congenital Heart Disease Network, took up the opportunity to shadow Dr Leila Rittey, one of the paediatric registrars in Leeds. These are Debra’s reflections from the experience.

“We met initially to discuss how shadowing might work and what Leila thought was feasible. We committed to five sessions over 7 weeks, which included shadowing Leila on a ward round, in clinic, on PICU, doing echocardiographs and on a night shift.

So what did I learn and reflect on as a result of walking in Leila’s shoes?

  • Always have a bottle of water with you – refreshment breaks are unpredictable
  • Junior doctors do LOTS of admin and have to remember to follow up lots of things. Organisational skills are really important, but where do they learn these skills?
  • There are peaks and troughs in workload but it’s rarely predictable and hard to guarantee a definite finish time.
  • Junior doctors deliver more training to other doctors and students than I realised.
  • In terms of socialisation, the juniors seem to feel most at home on the ward. As managers we are often not sure how and where to best engage with junior doctors. This made me think that we should put more effort into connecting with them on the ward.
  • Ward rounds are crazy …in terms of the numbers of people who attend the variability and the absence of standard work. There must be better ways of doing ward rounds!
  • My clinical knowledge and vocabulary increased.
  • I saw some really good examples of how play therapists can work alongside doctors to calm and distract children who are agitated or upset.
  • It’s a great way to talk to patients and families and get real time feedback about the care they are receiving

In terms of formalising a manager – doctor shadowing programme I think we should definitely encourage more managers to do it. I think the potential learning objectives are less well defined than with doctor – manager shadowing where there are specific aspects of NHS management that junior doctors need to be exposed to and understand in order to function at consultant level. On the other hand, I will never need to know how to interpret an echocardiograph or make a clinical management plan for a child with congenital heart disease. But I believe it is a valuable experience for managers, not just in terms of increasing clinical knowledge and exposure, but in breaking down barriers and fostering more of a “one team” culture.”

If you would like to shadow a manager (and potentially have a manager shadow you), please contact organisational learning: