Thursday, 14 November 2013

Life in Aberdeen

Hello everyone,

Sorry it's been rather a while since my last entry...Please take that as a good thing ie that there was so much going on with life in Shetland that I had little time to write!

My six months in general surgery at the Gilbert Bain passed in a flash: another six months of excellent learning opportunities, great experience and lots going on socially too! The beautiful long summer days (simmer dim) and great weather enabled for some excellent trips exploring Shetland's stunning scenery. It was wonderful having family and friends up to visit, who were pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the journey to these northern isles was. And even more pleasantly surprised by Shetland's majestic landscapes...

To be honest, I was extremely hesitant about the move to Aberdeen for my second year of training. It seemed so wrong to leave a land and people that I had come to love so dearly. I didn't like the idea of splitting that continuity and moving to a big city where I knew very few people, to a big hospital where I didn't know anyone....And that is me speaking as a positive-thinking person!!

And so it was much to my delight that I have found myself enjoying my time here in the Granite City thus far! I am currently working in psychiatry. I work with two consultants who each cover a respective geographical area (Fraserburgh and Peterhead respectively; fishing communitites). Each of them have their own community team, comprising psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists and social workers. I go on weekly clinics to either of the towns, seeing my own patients, and following them up. In hospital, I look after the ward patients, working with the team's in-patient psychiatric nurses.

This environment (both in hospital and the community) provides an incredible opportunity to get to know patients and staff alike, and that wonderful ability to follow-up patients. I really do consider myself very lucky to be part of the team! My consultants are very supportive and are excellent teachers. In spite of the hospital's size, it has a friendly atmosphere, and I feel that I have got to know quite a few staff. What more could I ask for?

Outside of work, I have been enjoying running in Aberdeen's beautiful parks, river-swimming, going to ceilidhs and playing traditional music. We have even seen lots of shooting stars! I am very fortunate to be living with two friends who are paediatric trainees here: they have made settling in all the more straight-forward.

This weekend I am heading up to Shetland to join the Unst GP surgery's charity walk from Sumburgh to Skaw, raising money for The Sandpiper Trust and BASICS: two very worthy causes.

Hope you like the photos, which I will be adding very soon (once I have found my camera...)

The Move

Another busy few weeks! Crazy to think I have been here in Aberdeen heading on for two months...Continuing to enjoy being part of the team at Cornhill. And have just enjoyed a wonderful week of holiday catching up with friends

It was during this week of holiday that I had some time to think about.. well.. Shetland - of course! And with that in mind, started looking at property market...The quest begins. As a point of interest to those of you considering moving to Shetland, it is promising to note that the property market is very buoyant and not showing any sign of receding.

And finally, for your entertainment, here is the ultimate Shetland tourist advertisement:

Chat soon!


Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter thoughts

Happy Easter!

BEAUTIFUL Easter Sunday here in Lerwick. Wow wow wow. Mild! Really hard to imagine all of the snow down south.

Have just finished a week of nights: these vary between quiet, busy and anything inbetween. Good variety of cases this week. Now I am lucky enough to have ten days off and heading to Provence to catch up with good New Zealand friends.

Bye for now!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Why Rural GP and Why Shetland

It was with much excitement that I took up my post in Rural Track GP training here in Shetland in August 2012. I had not long returned from New Zealand where I had been living and working for the past eighteen months. Whilst I was there, I heard about the Rural Track programme, and had thought ‘perfect’!

Whilst going through various flirtations considering different specialties as a medical student and junior doctor, it was General Practice that had always been what I considered would be the best career for me. I enjoy a variety of work, getting to know patients, and relish being part of a community. Working, and indeed training, in a rural environment provides unique opportunities to get involved in pre-hospital emergency care and provides an even broader width of experience.

As a GP ST1, I am currently doing my hospital posts in the Gilbert Bain Hospital, Lerwick. The last six months have been spent working on the medical ward (22-bedded unit). In terms of medical staffing, there is one FY1, five SHOs (ranging from FY2/ GP ST1/ CT1-2) and three full-time Consultants. Whilst in this post, I worked between the ward, clinics, medical admissions (seen through our A&E Department) and worked night shifts, covering medicine and surgery (in other words – everything!). I am now based on the surgical ward, following much the same format between wards/ clinics/ admissions/ A&E, with the obvious addition of seeing trauma/minor injuries on a more regular basis, and assisting in theatre. We have three full-time Consultant Surgeons, and three full-time Consultant Anaesthetists. There are four SHOs on the surgical rota, and one Staff Grade who is extremely experienced. As there are no registrars in training here in Shetland, I have a unique opportunity to get involved as much as possible in whatever we want to do. This includes learning airway skills from the Anaesthetists, practicing suturing in A&E and Theatre, and reducing joints/ fracture dislocations.

Each six months, I spend three days in my GP Practice, seeing patients and discussing with my GP Trainer (who is also my Educational Supervisor). Whilst I am in my hospital posts, this provides a valuable link with the community, and helps me to remember that I am a GP trainee!

Shetland consists of one hundred islands with a population of 22000 people. The landscape, and indeed seascapes, here are beautiful: Massive sea cliffs dropping straight into the sea; hillside; moorland with heather. The main town, Lerwick, is situated on Mainland and has a population of approximately 7500. Shetland was part of Norway until the 15th century, when she was handed over to Scotland as a dowry to enable the Danish Crown Prince to marry Princess Margaret. Therefore, the language here was initially an ancient form of Norse, with the latter additions of Scots and English fusing with this to create the Shetland Dialect which many locals still speak.

Public services here are incredible: excellent sports amenities, pot-hole free roads, good local bus service. There are daily ferries heading to Aberdeen (with regular service to Orkney) and Sumburgh Airport (40-minute drive south of Lerwick) provides good links with Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow. There are also direct flights over the summer to Bergen, Norway.

If you are in any way interested in traditional music, then look no further! – Shetland is known worldwide for its rich culture of traditional music. As a fiddle player, I could not wish to be in a better place to improve my playing!

Other activities which I have been involved in are traditional dancing and the triathlon club which is very active here. Sea-kayaking, coasteering, sailing, rowing traditional yoals and fishing are just some of the other activities on offer here, besides excellent coastal walking. There are many exquisite beaches here, with crystal-clear water. For wildlife lovers, I have a colony of grey and common seals who reside right outside my house. I can watch gannets diving in the bay, and puffins in the summer months also. The orcas also come to visit us here. See BBC wildlife presenter Simon King’s Shetland Diaries for a better insight.

The community here, I think it is fair to say, is the most active one I have ever lived in. There is a real sense of people looking after each other, and of true community spirit. One of the best examples of this is the weekly Sunday afternoon teas which are held in many of the village halls, which raise money for various charitable causes – local, national and international. As an island community, Shetland and Shetlanders could not be more welcoming, and are very keen to involve newcomers in island activities.

Drawbacks? – I’m struggling to think of any. The winter is long, but this is not a bad thing: you have the opportunity to see the beautiful mirrie dancers (aurora borealis) and there are several fire festivals to keep you warm! Alongside some beautiful crisp wintry weather, and some pretty impressive gales...

If you are reading this and sat there wondering “is Shetland for me?”, then I would ask yourself the following:

1. Do I enjoy living in a rural area and, indeed, an island?
2. Would I enjoy participating in community life?
3. Do I like the idea of having a little more responsibility at work, and working directly with Consultants?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, then you sound like a good

I am more than happy to be contacted (details below) if anyone is interested and would like to discuss further.

Good luck with the decision-making!


Dr Catherine Brown