If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume you’re happy to receive all cookies from the BMA website. Find out more about cookies
When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalised web experience.
Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.
These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms.
You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.
These cookies are required
These cookies allow us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information we collect is anonymous unless you actively provide personal information to us.
If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.
These cookies allow a website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you're in) and tailor the website to provide enhanced features and content for you.
For example, they can be used to remember certain log-in details, changes you've made to text size, font and other parts of pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you've asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. These cookies may be used to ensure that all our services and communications are relevant to you. The information these cookies collect cannot track your browsing activity on other websites.
Without these cookies, a website cannot remember choices you've previously made or personalise your browsing experience meaning you would have to reset these for every visit. In addition, some functionality may not be available if this category is switched off.
Our websites sometimes integrate with other companies’ sites. For example, we integrate with social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, to make it easier for you to share what you have read. These sites place their own cookies on your browser as a result of us including their icons and ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons on our sites.
Dr Maria Atkins is a Consultant Psychiatrist working in Haverford West
I was born and brought up in Cardiff and attended a comprehensive school in Ely, which had sent one previous person to medical school. Nobody in my family had been to university and I was not exactly encouraged in my careers interview to study medicine, being told that I ‘needed 3 As for that’. My mother was a nurse and really inspired me to want to work in the NHS.
When I gained BCC at A level, I was surprised and delighted to be accepted at Charing Cross Medical School but disappointed to be rejected from my first choice at Wales School of Medicine, because I had a boyfriend in Cardiff and it would separate us!
I was dreading my 4th year psychiatry placement in the mid-eighties in London. I imagined that the patients would be scary and intimidating and that the staff would be the stereotypical wordy analysts as portrayed in films. I was very sure that as a future GP I would not be needing much of what I would be exposed to on this placement and had heard that you could take it very easy in the psych block. The first patient I saw was a woman with depression – I was asked to take as long as I wanted to talk to her and find out how she had been admitted etc.
I had always enjoyed chatting to people and hearing about their lives and often went back to surgical and medical patients I had seen on ward rounds to talk because they had mentioned something interesting during the day and there hadn’t been time to listen. So I took a long time with my patient and in due course she was being discussed in the large in-patient Multi-Disciplinary Team.
The consultant invited me to contribute as he knew I had seen her, and after initial nerves about what was considered relevant, I recounted some of what I had learned about her life past and current. Everyone seemed so interested in what I had to say and I realised over the next weeks that life stories revealed important factors which were as relevant to the management of the patients as the drugs we were prescribing. I couldn’t quite believe that my curiosity about people was going to come in so handy! I don’t think I ever put in as many hours on a clinical placement and my future was set. With that as a basis for practice I found learning about the theories around the causation and treatment of mental illness fascinating.
Since then, I have been astounded by the variety of careers that can be pursued in psychiatry. The various routes you can take and exciting opportunities in research are many. Encouragement to develop one’s potential and protection of teaching time was my experience as a junior doctor. Working as a part time senior registrar and then consultant was supported by my colleagues and seniors. There is ongoing recognition of the importance of the doctor looking after themselves and structures to support that. But at the heart of everyday practice remains the patient and their story, which keeps me enjoying my chosen specialty and feeling very lucky to have chosen psychiatry.
Maria’s blog was provided by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and forms part of BMA Cymru Wales’s widening access project, demystifying the myths around medicine. Find out more at www.bma.org.uk/becomingadoctor