The BBC One series Island Medics provides a real insight into the lives and work of Shetland’s doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline emergency professionals.Watch series on BBC
I came originally to do a locum contract and loved the place and people. Having worked elsewhere in the UK, I found Shetland much better. I met my wife whilst operating in theatre (she’s a theatre scrub nurse) and decided to stay.
The job varies from day to day and no two days are the same. I can be called on to see patients in A&E, the wards, theatre, outpatients. The day starts with a review of all patients seen the previous day in A&E and a discussion around admitted patients. This is followed by a ward round where all patients who have been admitted are seen and ongoing care planned. I then go to either theatre, the outpatient clinic or A&E. Following this we usually have a teaching session for junior doctors around 2pm. Then it’s back to A&E. I’m supposed to finish at 4pm but usually end the day around 6-7pm. Then it’s home to the family.
Yes, I think I would be able to work in a mainland hospital. However, I’d be frustrated dealing with only one area of medicine and for that reason I’d probably choose A&E where presentations are still varied.
Helping people who then say “thank you”.
Having enough time in my day to do all the paperwork associated with it! Just being left to do my job instead of having to fill in endless pieces of worthless paper would be nice.
Yes very!! It somehow makes things seem artificial. I am now aware how strange I sound on camera! The staff and patients varied in their opinions. Some were for it, others against.
This is one of the core activities we undertake. It not only teaches the next generation of doctors but we try to encourage them to come back and work on the island long term. Like most places in the UK we are desperately short of doctors. The island offers a great experience and working here is special. Current UK training seems to be falling short on a number of fronts and hopefully we are able to show what is possible.
Last year we looked after 278 pregnant women in Shetland with approximately two-thirds delivering here and one-third in Aberdeen due to need for consultant obstetric or neonatal facilities.
I feel that it is increasing, it certainly feels busier or at least the same from when I was here as a student midwife.
I feel for me I’ve been challenged a lot recently, moving midwifery posts whilst still being newly qualified has been hard, but I’m slowly gaining in confidence again. Getting to know a new area and having to consolidate my skills for all round midwifery, rather than just one area of practice as I had in my previous post. Getting to know the policies for the island and what changes this presents for rural midwifery compared to midwifery in an obstetric unit.
I think the best thing is really getting to know the women and being with them throughout their journey towards becoming a family. There’s something special about being with women throughout pregnancy, birth and in the early stages of parenthood.
I chose to work in Shetland because of how much I value the continuity seeing women and the amount of time I can spend with them. As a midwife on the mainland I felt that I gave the very best care I could in a busy environment, but I thought I could always give more but was restricted by the workload. For me as a midwife, it was important for me to be able to build relationships over time and to get to know the families you care for well.
I felt that it was an important and scary decision for me to make as a newly qualified midwife to uproot my life and move to Shetland alone, but it’s how I’d like to base my career and how I want to continue my path as a midwife.
The main challenge I face being a Paramedic is critically ill patients. In these situations I become very aware that my patient’s life is quite literally in my hands. Paramedics across the country meet critically ill patients every day however certain factors about living and working in Shetland make these patients a little bit more difficult to manage, including the geography of the island. For example, I can be an hour away from hospital along single track roads with no radio or mobile phone signal with a seriously ill patient which is a daunting experience and adds a little extra pressure.
Another factor is the amount of resources available in Shetland – having only two ambulances (four members of staff) on shift at any one time it can be more difficult to deal with serious incidents than the equivalent situation on the mainland. If we need any more than this luckily we can rely on the goodwill of our colleagues who don’t mind being called from home any time of day or night to attend a major incident. We can also get support flown up from the Mainland, but that obviously takes a while to happen.
The final challenge that comes with working in Shetland is I am very often called to somebody I know, or a relative of somebody I know. This without a doubt adds an extra level of pressure.
In Lerwick we have 10 Paramedics and five Technicians.
I studied Nursing at Glasgow Caledonian University and moved to Oxford and worked for 13 months as a staff nurse on a surgical urology ward after graduating.
In 2011 I left nursing to pursue my dream to become a Paramedic. I joined South Central Ambulance Service as an Emergency Care Assistant which I did for just over a year then joined the Scottish Ambulance Service to do my technician training. I moved home to Shetland to work at Lerwick Ambulance Station once this was completed.
I then did my Paramedic training qualifying in 2015 so I have been qualified as a Paramedic for just over two years.
In January 2017 I started my training to become a Specialist Paramedic. I should qualify as a Specialist in Jan 2018 (If I pass all my exams!! No pressure).
I think I am more nervous about seeing myself on the programme. I think it will be quite eye opening to see myself doing my job. Shetland being Shetland as well EVERYONE will be tuning in!!!
There’s not a straightforward answer! It was an opportunity to challenge myself in a subject area that I've always been interested in. But the unique thing about medicine is that it's so varied, and you have so many different options about what area to specialise in and the path to take to get there.
Definitely. At times the junior doctor is the only doctor on-site so our skill set has to be extremely varied. The exposure to clinical situations and the willingness of seniors to teach has meant that my practical skills have increased tenfold.
If you're sure, go for it. If you're not sure, do some work experience/shadowing to get a real insight into what doctors actually do.
Probably one of the many patients that have come in with injuries that require immediate treatment in A&E, e.g. joint dislocations that need relocating or lacerations that need stitching.
Spare time?! I did what I always do - relax and socialise with friends. But working in a new place meant that there were new friends to be made and new places to see.