I am currently doing a GPST rotation at Balfour Hospital, Orkney. When I was first advised that my 2nd GPST rotation would be in Orkney, I was devastated. The main reason for this was that I had to leave my family in Aberdeen. I have two young children and it is difficult to move with whole family only for six months. I really considered leaving the GP training because I could not bear the thought of living apart from my family for six months. However, now I am in the 3rd month of my rotation and I am glad that I am here!!!
My family travelled down with me when I first came to Orkney in February 2014; the journey was fabulous, we really enjoyed the experience, though it was in cold February. We travelled up by ferry from Scrabster (near Thurso) to Stormness and then 20 minutes drive from Stormness to the Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall. From Aberdeen to Stornmess, is five hours drive, but it is a very pleasant route with breath taking views. I booked the family accommodation at ‘Graham House’- which is doctors and nurses accommodation provided by NHS Orkney. I admit that I was really apprehensive before coming here; I thought that the accommodation won’t be good and there won’t be enough amenities in Kirkwall. However, I was wrong!! The accommodation is good, though basic. The family accommodation, comprises of a living room (with a TV)), a good modern kitchen and three good sized bedrooms. There is a common room in the building too, with collection of books, DVDs, board games, TV etc where there is the opportunity to socialise with other residents. The accommodation is only five minutes walk from the hospital, 20 minutes walk from stunning and historic Scapa Bay beach and 15 minutes from the town centre, super markets, library and Gym. My family has visited me twice in my 3 months here, they just love it. The islands of Orkney are vibrant, very rich in culture, history, natural beauty and fantastic local produce, there are lots of things to see here and lots of things to do. My family members and I are really glad that I have got this job, it sometimes feels like a paid holiday!!! Work-life balance is great.
Moreover, the work experience in Balfour Hospital is absolutely incredible. Everyone is so friendly, from receptionist to consultants, you can feel a happy working atmosphere. It could be very busy some days, but the team is very good, friendly and effective, this makes the job really enjoyable. People here are very supportive that I have a young family in Aberdeen; they have tried to accommodate my Annual Leave requests as much as possible, so that I can visit my family often. I feel that members of staff look after each other very well, nurses here are fantastic!!!! They make you a cup of tea or make you go to bed to take rest at night if it’s quiet! This nice and friendly working environment is helping me a lot to go through this difficult phase (living away from family). Patients and their relatives are very nice too; they are very appreciative and thankful. Lots of home bakes from staff or patient are always around!!!
Balfour Hospital has roughly six wards- Receiving/A&E, Acute, Assessment and Rehabilitation, High Dependency, Maternity and Macmillan ward. Also there is a dialysis unit and variety of out – patient clinics run by local doctors or visiting specialists from Aberdeen or Inverness. Moreover, NHS24 service is run in the Outpatient department out of hours by a group of very friendly GPs and if you are keen you can observe and accompany them which is a good learning opportunity.
The Medical team consists of three consultants and two rural GPs. I have seen a wide variety of cases while working with the medical team- from emergencies to palliative care. We need to also deal with Paediatric patients, if necessary an extremely efficient Paediatric Unscheduled Care Service is available, which is by VC link to an on call Paediatric consultant based at a Scottish Mainland Hospital.
Surgical team is made of two consultants and two staff grade doctors. Surgical team covers from minor trauma to major surgery. I have had good opportunities to deal with a wide variety of casualties-minor trauma, minor eye and ENT problems which we might have to deal in a GP setting. I have also had the opportunity to deal with patients with severe sepsis due to cholecystitis, ectopic pregnancy, life threatening GI bleeding to fractures, diabetic foot, cellulitis etc while working with the surgical team.
The obstetrics & gynaecology team consists of two consultants and very experienced midwives. Usually GPSTs do not have to cover Maternity ward, but patients who are admitted to the ward for gynaecological problem/ surgery etc, are looked after by ward doctors.
Palliative care has a four bed ward, the Macmillan ward, usually run by a group of GPs, but needs GPST/ medical team cover out of hours.
I enjoy my oncall shifts here too; you are the only doctor in whole hospital, covering everything and anything that comes through your door. It could be challenging, but it boosts your confidence a lot. Support is always available from senior colleagues if required. All the senior colleagues are really supportive, friendly and easily accessible.
I found that in Orkney, secondary care and primary care work very closely, communication between the two is excellent. GPSTs can gain unique learning experience by visiting GP practices. I am planning to visit a very rural GP practice in a small island off Orkney to experience the work and life of a rural GP. I have discussed the visit with a few rural GPs and they are all very happy to offer the opportunity. Some of them even offered practice accommodation; how nice!!!
The induction was very helpful and well-structured, over three days. The medical director and the consultants are very keen on teaching. Usually every Friday there is an hour of teaching, every Wednesday ECG teaching, alternate Friday case review meeting and every morning an Xray meeting, all of which provide excellent learning opportunities. Every alternate Wednesday there is protected learning time (GPST group learning) via video link with the Caledonian GPST programme. Moreover, there are opportunities to attend both local clinics and also Neurology and Genetics clinics by video-linking to Aberdeen.
In a nutshell, it is a very enjoyable and broad clinical experience for me. All the colleagues are very friendly, I felt like a part of team from day one. No doubt, it is an excellent GPST rotation. I am simply loving it!! I highly recommend this post.