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A day in the life of a psychiatry doctor

In the world of a psychiatry doctor, no two days are the same, Dr Mark admits. A consultant for 28 years, Mark has detailed insight into the realm of psychiatry and spoke to us about his current role working in an inpatient facility.

Could you talk us through a typical day in your role?

“There's a number of psychiatric subspecialties, but I chose quite early on in my career to specialise in intellectual disabilities – working with people who have below-average intelligence and suffer from mental illnesses.

“I'm currently working in a forensic inpatient setting, so all patients have come into contact with the law. We see clients, talk with and interview them, and try to gauge whether they're suffering from active symptoms of mental illness and if we need to make any changes to their medication.

“We work alongside a range of other colleagues, nursing colleagues primarily, but also other multidisciplinary team members. In psychiatry, we’re heavily reliant on what people tell us and we also do a lot of observing. As doctors, we’re not present 24 hours a day, but in inpatient settings we have colleagues who are, so we rely on observations from other team members too.”

How did you become a psychiatry doctor?

“In my day it was a year of core medical training (now it’s two) and then you can choose to specialise. I chose to go into psychiatry which involved five years of training and three years of higher training.”

What made you choose to go into psychiatry?

“In my last year in medical school, I was looking for a career that saw patients as individuals, as whole people.

“I had some experience in psychiatry and I had spent six months working in an inpatient setting with people with learning disabilities, who I learned were an often-underprivileged group in society. I felt that I could make a positive impact with this career choice.”

What occasional challenges do you face in your role?

“I think there are significant clinical challenges faced by psychiatry doctors. In other specialties you might rely heavily on diagnostic tests, but in psychiatry, we can only use such tests to exclude other existing conditions rather than to diagnose mental illness.

“So, we have to depend on what people tell us and what we observe. And for me that's the real challenge. I liken it to being a bit of a detective because you've got relatively small pieces of information and you need to put them together to identify any patterns.”

What are some of the most important skills you need to succeed in your role?

“You have to be a good listener and be very astute in picking up on what might be quite subtle signs, and that's not just with the clients themselves, but also with their carers, and when you're working with other members of staff.

“You've got to have good communication skills, and be prepared to occasionally change your mind and to be found wrong in order to treat clients effectively.”

Finally, what has your experience with Medacs been like?

“The Medacs team was very responsive and supportive from the beginning; the registration process was straightforward and prompt, and I've had the benefit of having the same Medacs placement officer since the beginning.

“Working with an agency allowed me to continue to find roles after retiring from my substantive job. They also offer a lot of additional support in terms of training opportunities, online and face to face, and provide support for appraisals and revalidation.

“It’s been a joy working with Medacs.”

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