The Doctors-for-Doctors Team
“I am so glad I took the first step in responding to your email offer of help.
I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without you, in fact I might not have been here at all.”
The CUH Doctors-for-Doctors arm of the service was formed in response to the Covid pandemic in March 2020 – drawing together a small team of highly experienced, pastorally-skilled GPs to help give 1:1 support to CUH medical & surgical colleagues, of all grades & specialties , at a critical time.
Able leaders in their own field – past GP tutors, FRCGPs, trainers and mentors – the team have a shared understanding of the pressures on doctors which uniquely informs their role in ‘coming alongside’ as their CUH colleagues as peers.
The CUH Doctors-for-Doctors team offers to doctors of all grades:
- 1:1 pastoral support
- group/team debrief
- facilitated discussion/mediation
One-to-one pastoral supervision (‘personal pitstop’) enables doctors to take some thinking/reflecting space for themselves – to pull-up, offload, reflect and refuel – providing both support & encouragement and to act as a sounding board for reflection. This format encourages them to open-up and be understood in a way that may not be possible with a non-medical practitioner.
Connecting in supervision with Doctors-for-Doctors has been quoted as providing a “lifeline for doctors” across the hospital. This specific pastoral peer-led support enables acknowledgement of the situation, helps doctors accept they are not ok/are sick themselves/need to reflect and process. By working with them weekly to monthly (as agreed together) doctors are enabled in the taking of new decisions, the making of holistic changes, the giving of courage, the rekindling of vocation, the change to a different specialty or a decision for more training.
Relevant support is provided depending on each person’s personal situation and circumstances. More than 10% are currently being referred to their GP or the staff Mental Health Service for medication and initiatives such as CBT. The team also work hand in hand with Occupational Health as a pastoral base-pin.
Doctors with a wide range of problems and concerns have been supported over the past months. These have included: severe agitation, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, stammer leading to suicidal ideation, burnout with associated loss of meaning in life and depression, team relationship difficulties and bullying leading to mental breakdown. More broadly many have struggled with family or home events, the loss of friends to COVID and the loss of parents to dementia and cancer, others with feelings of isolation and anonymity. There have been huge challenges for those overseas doctors separated from home and family having to rotate through different departments and hospitals in the region.
Sessions generally take place between Monday and Friday, 8am – 6pm but occasional appointments are offered outside these hours and weekends if required. The service is displayed on the CUH Staff Portal and a substantial number of referral requests are generated by word-of-mouth. A regular invitation email is also circulated to those on the medical staffing list reaching approximately 1,200 doctors. Staff are responded to promptly (within a maximum of 12 hours), with appointments offered as soon as possible, usually within a few days/a week. The number of sessions each staff receives is arranged according to mutual agreement and depends on each person’s individual needs. One-to-one appointments for pastoral support take place principally by videocall or phone (F2F by agreement).
Feedback from the 1:1 Sessions:
“Susie, these sessions with you have been a lifeline for me, I don’t know how I would have got through the last few months without your support.”
“Absolutely transformational – I had lost all meaning, and you have helped me find myself again” “You have been like a lighthouse in the darkest time in my life so far”
“I am so glad I took the first step in responding to your email offer of help…. you facilitated me getting help… you speeded up my recovery… you were there for me…. I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without you, in fact I might not have been here at all”
“Thanks for the message and all your time yesterday. I found it hugely helpful. Yes, slept better last night. Thank you for the very helpful pointers in getting down to the business of reshaping things. Much appreciated”
“I have been meaning to write to you to say thank you for a while. Thanks for noticing and caring that I was low in the debrief group when no one else seemed to notice. This really isn’t meant a criticism of anyone else but more as a compliment to you and a request for you to kindly keep helping over medics who don’t even realise they need it yet! So thank you very very much and please keep up the good work!”
Feedback from the debrief/group sessions:
“This is just what we all needed…” “Much appreciated discussions…”
“Wonderful to see everyone… I really felt much lighter and happier the rest of the day… I feel I know the team much better and we’re closer because of the sessions, I am so glad they are a weekly occurrence now…”
“These debrief groups are absolutely essential for team morale and our sustainability – they matter, and they tell us that we matter”
“The feedback that I got from the Medical team whom you saw last week…wow! What a huge difference to them. They were overflowing with appreciation. You are REMARKABLE! They said everyone was so engaged, it showed understanding of them as clinicians and all on the team were smiling at the end. Even although there was some disruption with the virtual system, it didn’t matter, because it was a brilliant session nevertheless. THAT is amazing! JThey absolutely LOVED your cakes. Broad smiles with the memories of it as they were telling me. I must say, I was very embarrassed though to hear that they let you make and bring them in!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!” (Physio Superintendent)
Feedback on receiving the invite emails for support:
“Dear Susie. Been following your excellent and hugely uplifting series of messages on the wider circular list. Might be just that it’s been a long week/month/year, but I think I would like to speak to someone….” (Service lead consultant)
“Thanks Susie. It is good to know there are people we can go to. It is very true that many went into COVID exhausted…a positive side effect of all this for many of us is that is has helped us to re-evaluate our lives and priorities. My colleagues and I have been talking openly and very honestly how this has had an impact on us… as I said it is good to know there is somewhere we can go for a quiet conversation. Your email is one I will save.” (ED Consultant Lead)
In April 2020, The Evelyn Trust agreed a grant of £40,000 to Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust towards a Psychological Support Service for the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the growing concern for the wellbeing and mental health of doctors at the hospital, it was decided to allocate the Evelyn Trust grant towards Doctor-for-Doctors.