Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Life on Orkney

Many trainees are a little wary of the prospect of spending time in some of our Rural General Hospitals, this wariness is usually dispelled within days of starting the posts and the feedback we receive from our trainees is universally positive with many talking about outstanding clinical and social experiences.  Lisa Hayward was no exception, read about her account of working in Orkney.

When choosing my rotations for GP training I had never been to Orkney before, and had only been to Scotland once before, so let’s just say I was a little lost as to where I wanted to work! I saw the beautiful pictures of pristine beaches, unspoilt countryside and abundant wildlife in Orkney and was instantly drawn to the island! I read a couple of blog posts from previous trainees who had worked at Balfour Hospital and each had given an excellent review, both in terms of experience as well as great lifestyle opportunities, and so I thought why not?! Before I knew it, the adventure had begun and I was driving the 15 hour journey from Bristol to Scrabster and catching the ferry to Orkney! The ferry journey was fantastic with great views of the islands on a lovely warm August day, with great views of the Old Man of Hoy, and views of the quaint seaside town of Stromness. When driving the short journey to Kirkwall taking in the stunning scenery I instantly knew I had made the right decision.

I stayed for the entire 6 months in the hospital accommodation, which is just a few minutes walk from the hospital. The accommodation was clean, tidy and had all the amenities you would expect – I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I stayed in a flat with one of the other GP trainees and the accommodation has about 30 rooms, so there are plenty of other friendly people around to socialise with. Scapa Bay is the local beach and is just a 15-20 minute walk away, and the town centre of Kirkwall including the supermarket and sports and leisure centre just 15 minute walk away.

Working at the Balfour Hospital offered absolutely fantastic experience and I really enjoyed working there. The job is very well supported by senior colleagues (usually GPs or the newly appointed consultants) and there are no registrars therefore GPSTs are exposed to a wide variety of presentations and are fully involved in patient care from admission to discharge. I felt that I was really involved in patient care and management, rather than just filling in forms and taking bloods that can be the case in some jobs! As it is quite a small hospital, at evenings and weekends you will generally cover A&E, medical and surgical inpatients as well as rehabilitation and palliative care inpatients, so you are always kept on your toes! There are opportunities to attend clinics which are videolinked with consultants in Aberdeen (I did neurology and genetics clinics) which offer great learning opportunities, as well as local clinics such as fracture clinics etc if you find the time. There is a daily x-ray meeting each morning where you have the opportunity to review and discuss any difficult x-rays you may have seen in A&E the day before with the consultants which is always reassuring. GP trainees get protected teaching time on alternate Wednesday afternoons to attend the GPST teaching sessions which are videolinked with other trainees in other remote and rural locations (Shetland/Oban/Wick etc), It was a great opportunity to discuss interesting cases with other trainees and of course having a nice cup of and tea and biscuits! The rota was occasionally fairly demanding and there were occasionally problems with getting locum cover due to unfilled posts on the GPST rota, however these were usually sorted fairly quickly and you were usually able to negotiate your annual leave when you wanted it. There was great camaraderie amongst the medical team, and we often went out for dinner or drinks, and the occasional night out at Fusion (the only nightclub on the island!).

Outside of work, I enjoyed a lot of cycling as the roads on Orkney are perfect for cycling with very little traffic, mostly flat roads and fantastic views – although definitely to be avoided when winds >80mph! There are some excellent cliff walks at Yesnaby and the Ring of Brodgar is a must see. I will just mention that if you are into clothes shopping Orkney is probably not for you!

Overall, I look back on my time in Orkney with great memories and am very grateful for the opportunity for such great experience. All of the GPs and consultants are very friendly and are always willing to offer advice or review patients if required. A highly recommended post!

Lisa Hayward GPST1

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