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My own journey as a SAS grade has been positive. There can be a lot of negativity and misunderstandings surrounding our role but talking to colleagues also in the grade, several others have also found it to be positive, with less enforced need to do management roles. Being positive about the role engenders a recognition in others that it should not be a dead-end grade.
Looking back over my time, by default it is coloured by my own choices and routes, so much of this is personal reflection, but I hope others may take something from these thoughts. Having been a trainee in Anaesthesia after qualifying from Aberdeen University, I took a step which some of my colleagues saw as being career suicide. I left the profession for four years in order to care for my disabled mother until her death, and also had my children. While I was out of medicine the staff grade was introduced, and I saw at once this would be a way for me to combine medicine and family life. It provided me with the work-life balance I desired, and the chance to undertake chronic pain management alongside anaesthesia.
I initially returned to work in a married doctor retainer scheme post, but soon was appointed to a staff grade, and then associate specialist post. Things quickly led to opportunities to represent SAS grades in the then newly formed LNC, and I was able to raise the profile of SAS grade staff within my Trust so that we were no longer omitted in error! Once my hospital site merged with others to become a county wide Trust, I continued in the LNC, becoming LNC chair - believed to be the first SAS grade to hold such a post, though quickly followed by others in different Trusts - and only stepping down as chair after nearly 9 years in the role, though still remaining on the LNC as a SAS rep.
I also became involved with the local BMA Division, which enabled me to attend the ARM (Annual Representative Meeting), where I felt passionately about issues affecting SAS grade staff. So did my maiden speech and this led to encouragement to stand for SASC UK, and I was fortunate enough to be elected to the committee. There are undoubtedly challenges for those of us in this branch of practice, but the strides taken by the production of our guidance documents, (including the SAS charter)over the years have been very significant when considering we used to be “non” grades. Many of us are now appraisers, educational/clinical supervisors, and some have management roles. From early in my time in SASC, my experience at the ARM meant that I was able to become conference chair for five years. The introduction of SAS career development funding enabled me to become SAS Tutor, and also to explore the world of education by doing a Masters in Medical Education. All of these experiences give me immense job satisfaction and allow me to appreciate that opportunities are to be seized, and that undertaking these roles gives a fascinating insight into the amazing work done by my colleagues, as well as enabling me to encourage others to do the same.
The cross representation to other committees from SASC gave a fascinating and useful insight to the issues faced by other branches of practice, and I have valued having this overview of the profession. My love of the ARM remained, so I was fortunate to be elected to the ARM Agenda committee, and now am deputy chair of the Representative Body, where I hope I show that all BMA members of whatever branch of practice they are from should be valued and encouraged.
So what have I learnt over the years?
Be positive; treat others as you would wish to be treated; respect is mutual; be patient and accept changes may take time; if thwarted change tack; seize opportunities as people will not offer you things on a plate; don’t stagnate; value friends and colleagues; don’t waste time stressing about things you cannot control; and have something in your life other than work.
Anthea Mowat is deputy chair of the BMA Representative Body
Almost three years down the line, I find this write up very fascinating. I feel encouraged and proud!