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I had just found out that I had passed my exams at the end of my fourth year at medical school. I was feeling smug and happy going into my final year, when a few niggling symptoms – a bit of tiredness, a bit of nausea, a bit of a twinge – suddenly stuck together into a suspicious clinical picture.When I went to restock my blood bottles for my phlebotomy job, I noticed a box of pregnancy tests. Five minutes later I was staring at a positive test and wondering how on earth this whole thing was supposed to work.I sat my final written exams shaped like a beach ball with a head sticking out the top, in a room alone with my partner (also a medical student in my year) just in case I decided to do an obstetric demonstration in the middle of the exam (I didn’t). I sat my final clinical exams with huge dark bags under my eyes after five weeks of being screamed at by a small angry human, and as I passed a mirror shortly after exiting my last case, I noticed two dark, wet, rapidly expanding patches on what was supposed to be a smart blouse. So much for professionalism... To this day I have no idea how I passed.When we first found out I was pregnant we hadn’t heard of LTFT (less than full-time) training. We were looking forward to being junior doctors – work hard, play hard, right? The overwhelming, exhilarating on-calls, the terror and the camaraderie, the highs and the lows. Life had other plans though, and we cast around for some ideas on how to cope. At a hospital open day, there was a small stall about ‘less than full-time training’ and it went from there.I interviewed and secured an FY1 job, I applied for LTFT training, and I have trained LTFT ever since. I am now an ST3 in paediatrics with a brood of unruly kids who manage to complain at me both for working (‘you should work less, it’s not fair, we don’t want to get up early and go to childcare’) and for staying home (‘we want to go to after-school club, they give us more biscuits than you and you make us tidy our rooms’).LTFT training isn’t an easy option. Whether it’s the scattered snide comments we’ve all heard from colleagues about part-time commitment, or the struggle to access the training we need in departments that want us to provide a service at work and train in our own time for free. Or national newspapers railing about part-time women doctors – jack-of-all-trades, masters of none. Not selfless enough to stay at work and staff the hospitals, too selfish to care properly for their children.Through all this utter nonsense, my part-time colleagues battle through and make it work, and we are proud of it. Because although it (repeat) isn’t an easy option, and it isn’t the best option for everyone, it is an excellent option and definitely the best for me.We have become organised and excellent at handover. We have to be. We sometimes struggle to gain the confidence we need to be pushy enough to access the training we need, so we learn to ask, we learn to prioritise and we learn to lead. Medicine isn’t the province of the wealthy man any more. Medicine is diverse. We have people coming into medicine with disabilities; we have mature students who are more likely to have children before or during their time at medical school. There are people for whom the physical or mental pressures of medicine are too extreme, so the only sustainable way of working is LTFT. For some, LTFT is the only way to make it work.In my medical school, three of us, three 20 to 22-year-old women, had babies within a year of each other. It happens. And taking the scenic route has led me to a specialty I thought I couldn’t do, but which I love, and to take on roles I’d never otherwise have considered. I wouldn’t have it any other way now. Because it’s not a race, and going slower means you have the time to enjoy the journey.
This blog was written by Maddy Fogarty-Hover, a ST3 in paediatrics and a less than full time trainee (60%)
Great to hear how other LTFT trainees are coping. I've had 3 kids during my specialist training to be come a GP and have worked LTFT since my second child arrived. It also works for me and allows me to train for the job I love to work at. However as mentioned above its not easy and there are days when I feel that I don't excel at either my role as a mother or as a doctor, however these days are in the minority and most of my colleagues have been supportive. Karen GPST2
I work LTFT 75% which is still too much for me. How I wish I was allowed to work 60% and see a little more of my children but apparently that is not possible. It is not that I don't like my job, I do, but I hate the way the shifts exhaust me and my family. If they had more old fashioned staff grade jobs where you could choose your hours a bit more I would quit training in a instant but you don't see many of them anymore.
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