OW Spotlight Rachel Parish

Apsley '99

Emergency Medicine

What inspired you to work in medicine?

I didn’t originally want to be a doctor. When I was at Wellington, I enjoyed Biology and Chemistry, so I did a degree in Biochemistry and Genetics as that was what I was interested in. I worked out during my degree that working in a lab felt lonely and that I wanted to work with people and then naturally thought of medicine. I went onto to study medicine after completing my degree.

Tell us about yourself – just a few sentences to introduce yourself

I’m an emergency medicine and paediatric emergency medicine consultant at Frimley Park Hospital. I spend half my time working in the paediatric emergency department and half in the adult ED. In some of the time spent not at work I shoot clay targets! This has taken me all round the world, to 3 Commonwealth Games, several World and European championships and I’ve won 11 international medals including Gold, Silver and Bronze at the Commonwealth Games.

What is your speciality and how is the present Covid-19 pandemic affecting your normal working routine?

I’m an emergency medicine and paediatric emergency medicine specialist. The pandemic has meant a change in working pattern so I’m working in the adult department a lot more than normal as we have reconfigured the department so some of the children who present are seen directly by the paediatricians. Adults also seem to be more severely affected by COVID19 so there has been more need there. I also have some colleagues who are shielding at home, so this has meant those of us still working are filling in the gaps left by them too. I’m working a lot more than I normally would and working most weekends at the moment to ensure there is enough senior cover for the department.

How did you get where you are today?

I did my medical degree in Southampton, foundation programme in Salisbury and emergency medicine training in the East Midlands. I worked as a consultant in Derby and then decided that I wanted to move back to the South to be near family, so I moved back last summer. Often as you go through training in medicine there is very little choice of location which is how I ended up doing emergency medicine training in the East Midlands. There’s more choice when you become a consultant and I’m very happy where I am now.

What advice would you give to students/young OWs who would like to join the medical profession?

It’s hard! I think you really must want to be a doctor in order to do it. Things have improved over the last few years, but you still work a lot including weekends, nights and evenings. There’s a lot of assessments to get through and you’ll be doing exams well into your late 20s and 30s with most specialties having exams just before becoming a consultant. Once you’ve decided you want to be a doctor then you have to pick a specialty. I totally acknowledge that I’m biased but emergency medicine is great! I would advocate looking at what the consultants do on a day to day basis. You’re a trainee for approximately 10 years but then a consultant for the rest of your career, perhaps 30-35 years, and the life of a consultant is very different to that of a trainee in any specialty.

You need to be determined and driven to get through it all and have a good support network outside of work.

What is it like working within health care at the moment?

It’s pretty unpleasant but there are some good points. The camaraderie amongst my colleagues is great and we’re supporting each other. At the moment the work when looking after COVID19 patients is scary and emotionally draining. We aren’t allowing relatives to come into hospitals with patients so they’re mostly on their own. People of all ages are getting this disease and are very unwell and even dying with it. Several of my colleagues have also become ill with it and some have required admission to hospital. Colleagues in the East Midlands have also been unwell and one of my friends, a mentor and colleague, in Derby died a few weeks ago from COVID19. It is very real and very confronting working in emergency medicine at the moment.

What are your career highlights?

I’m pretty proud of passing all my royal college final exams first time- often it takes more than one go. I enjoy teaching junior doctors and I always feel very proud of them when, for example, they’ve successfully resuscitated someone or completed a procedure well. It’s great to have supported someone to learn and improve and when I know I’ve played a part in that it’s wonderful.

Do you have a fond memory from your time at Wellington that you would like to share or perhaps a particular teacher that really stood out?

I was always amazed that I got to go to school somewhere where the surroundings were so awesome! I sang in the chapel choir and enjoyed that a lot. Simon Williamson was supportive from a music point of view. I used to get a lift with the boys who were going to shoot at Bisley so I could go and shoot clays, at the time Wellington weren’t involved in clay shooting at Bisley so it was a bit frowned upon that I didn’t want to shoot rifles- they still gave me a lift so that was just fine!