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Heather Bixley and Dr Joy Brockbank

Shadowing Junior Doctor Joy Brockbank in A&E on her nightshift.

In Their Shoes – the Trust’s fantastic opportunity for all staff to be able to shadow other colleagues within the Trust. This is my story.

Not so long ago I was in a meeting and Suzanne Rankin mentioned a book called “This is going to Hurt” written by Adam Kay about his time as a junior doctor. After reading it I was so filled with admiration and respect for all junior doctors that I decided to shadow one on a night shift in A&E. All I knew about A&E was their rounders team is pretty good!

My expectations of the evening were pretty “bloody and gory” and I would probably feel pretty knackered by the time I went home but no more than bad jetlag. I thought the staff would probably be stressed and tired, working hard with little chat between themselves and the tea room would be either empty or have sleeping bodies in there.

How wrong I was…

All day I was so excited and bored my colleagues to tears in the office with what I was going to do that night. At 9.30pm I left home in the dark and the rain to drive here. All of a sudden I felt nervous, scared, worried, what would I see, how would the staff treat me, how does the doctor really feel about having me there.

I shouldn’t have worried.

I met Dr Joy in A&E reception at 10pm promptly on the night as she had asked. There she was, dressed in green, happy as anything to see me.

After briefly introducing me to some staff on duty we set off to start the night. Our first patient had a bad oozing leg and I resisted the urge to embarrass myself. I witnessed the doctor carefully examining, asking questions, searching for what else was going on. To my horror she beckoned me to take a look at the oozing leg and never once saying “eeewww”. Dr Joy never faltered.

She was incredibly kind, showed empathy and always always completely non-judgemental. I can’t tell you the things that were running through my mind. This doctor was touching the bad leg yet I could barely look at it. Not many could do that?

Next patient up was a man with heart pains and off we went to meet him and his wife. She said that they had been married for 52 years, such a lovely couple. He was 88 years old yet when we met him you could tell this was someone who was young at heart, who clearly looked after himself and kept healthy, he and his wife looked more like in their 60’s than 80’s. Thankfully after a stay of six hours with careful monitoring and tests he was able to go home.

The night didn’t drag on and the cases continued with normal regularity.

I was feeling great, thinking I had been doing well keeping up with my Dr Joy but was very aware she hadn’t had a break!

All of a sudden at 5.20am it just hit me, I felt completely drained. She kindly sent me off to the tea room where I sipped on a coffee wondering how on earth I was going to finish the shift at 8am with her. She then came in to grab some food quickly. Her break was 20 minutes throughout her entire shift. Whilst I was in the tea room I chatted to nursing staff who told me about our “regulars”, some of them were weekly visitors, some challenging regulars and some lonely ones. I went home early not because I am weak but I was tired.

Properly tired.

Dr Joy and I parted with a hug and an apology for what she thought might have had been a slightly quieter than normal shift but as I walked to my car I realised she was so wrong.

I had learnt an astonishing amount from her and the things she did astounded me. She taught me about compassion and patience while not judging. She was so thorough with every patient she treated. She asked questions, taking her time, never making them feel rushed, explaining why they would have to wait, telling me “patients will accept waiting if they know why they are waiting”. At times she checked things with her seniors, always with good humour – though her singing didn’t do a lot for her!

Whilst I was there I also learnt that A&E has many units within a little world of its own. I consider myself to be a good, compassionate person with a kind heart but I can be judgmental and I wouldn’t have the patience that these doctors and nurses have or the tolerance.

The entire staff on shift that night kept in good humour yet were professional at all times. They made the time go a bit quicker with their passing chat and quips. I didn’t see stress I saw professionalism. I saw calmness and patience on a level I couldn’t even begin to explain. I saw a fantastic team.

This is a BIG thank you to all those clinical colleagues who work through the night. I can honestly say I don’t know how you do it. Thanks to all those in A&E especially “two nine” for your helpfulness and professionalism at all times all night.

The biggest thank you of all goes to Dr Joy Brockbank without whom I wouldn’t have learnt what I did. One day you will be the most fantastic of all consultants.

For those of you that haven’t done a day In Their Shoes, I thoroughly recommend it.


Pictured above: Heather Bixley and Dr Joy Brockbank