Imposter syndrome, pigs and applying for a College leadership role

Published: 10/01/2022
Dr Samantha Black

Consultant Paediatric and Perioperative Anaesthetist and RCoA Patient Information Lead

Whilst cycling in the French Alps (I know, typical Anaesthetist) on maternity last summer, my phone pinged with a WhatsApp message: ‘Have you seen the advert for Patient Information Lead at the College? You should apply!’

I had never thought about a leadership role at the College and felt very under qualified. The dreaded imposter syndrome kicked in, and I thought I couldn’t possibly apply, there are far more experienced people than me.

I took the summer to think about it and decided to phone a few friends who I knew would have thought the same as me but had put themselves out there and gone for such roles. Dr Ramai Santhirapala (College Council, Choosing Wisely UK lead) and Dr Sarah Hare (Deputy Director for the Health Services Research Centre) made me reflect upon my CV showing me that actually I had done quite a lot with regards to patient information and shared decision making as a trainee. Now as a Consultant, and in the unique position with respect doing both adult high-risk pre-assessment, prehabilitation and paediatric pre-assessment within my job plan I had strong reasons for applying. This was the confidence I needed and so I set about putting my application together.

What on earth is an RCoA interview like? Is it like a Consultant interview (oh the terror!) I’m pleased to say it wasn’t half as scary. I did my background research whilst the newest member of our family napped and I arranged team meetings with the outgoing lead Dr Hilary Swales and Elena Fabbrani – the College’s Policy and Patient Information Manager. I think this is what sealed the deal and made me want the role. Both were incredibly passionate about high-quality patient information but also incredibly supportive towards the working group. They had both worked hard over the last six years when the Patient Information Group, fondly known as ‘PIG’ began to develop some truly remarkable resources, including the Fitter Better Sooner resources for patients.

The interview was with a lovely panel, including Pauline Elliott, the Chair of the RCoA Lay Committee, who all made me feel at ease and to my surprise I got the role.

We are now in the handover process and six years is a lot of work to be brought up to speed on. It’s incredible how far patient information has come at the College, and I feel really excited to be part of this to help patients nationally on their perioperative journeys with high quality information. The Royal College of Anaesthetists is the first medical Royal College to receive accreditation of information produced under the patient information trusted information creator scheme, known as the PIF TICK. What Hilary Swales and the team at the College have achieved is incredible.

Along with exciting new ideas and collaborations in the coming year, building upon the wealth of patient information resources available on the RCoA website, we are keen to raise awareness through all the College’s communication channels as well as events like Anaesthesia 2022 in May, so that these accredited resources reach all hospital pre-assessment clinics and patients nationwide.

So as I embark on my three year term in a new role I would just like to end by saying a big thank you to Hilary and El who I know will always be at the end of the telephone or email as nothing is ever too much for them (although I haven’t tested them that much yet!)

If you are considering applying for a College role I say - go for it, put yourself out there, and apply!

Dr Samantha Black

RCoA Patient Information Lead