Is yours the voice we are looking for?

Published: 23/09/2021
Dr Sarah Muldoon

Consultant Anaesthetist, RCoA Council Member.

I’ve been on RCoA Council representing anaesthetists in training for more than two years, and a sad milestone is approaching – my colleague Jamie Strachan will be leaving in March 2023.

I’ll miss his experience and mentorship, (and shared Scottish heritage and humour) but it means the opportunity for an Anaesthetist in Training to take over his role - nominations are open for anaesthetists across the UK to stand for election and represent their peers.

Three years ago, I spotted the election advert on social media. I’d recently become familiar with the term “imposter syndrome” and compared myself unfavourably to colleagues doing weird and wonderful non-clinical roles, which I didn’t think I had the skills or experience to go for. As a challenge to myself, I vowed to apply for the next opportunity that made me think “I’d love to, but I couldn’t do it.” The call for nominations for an Anaesthetist in Training on Council made me feel just that – what would I be doing working for the Royal College? But I kept thinking about it. I’d been a trainee rep of some description since I was a CT1, and I had really appreciated the support of the RCoA during the Junior Doctors contract dispute.  After a confidence boosting chat with (or was it a stern talking to) from my TPD, Dr Kate Prior, I put my application in… hours to spare before the deadline.

Seeing ballots go out with my picture and statement to anaesthetists across the country made me feel pretty exposed. I’d never won any form of popularity contest. But friends and colleagues got in touch to say they thought I’d be great in the role, and were encouraging others to vote for me, so I felt I could hold my head high even if I came last. I was so humbled and excited by the news I’d been elected.

My first meeting, I was nervous on two fronts. First, that I was too “ordinary” to be amongst the other Council members I’d heard so much about. I was so star-struck, I tripped at the top of the stairs and was caught by Dr David Bogod. In fact, I was welcomed into a team much like any group of anaesthetists – skilled, experienced with lots of warmth and humility. The Association of Anaesthetists President, Dr Kathleen Fergusson, leant me her lipstick for the photos!

Another concern was that I was too outspoken. I had written articles during the doctors’ strikes, and feared I’d be taken aside and told to tow-the-line from then on. On the contrary, I have been encouraged to speak my mind, and I’ve found it invaluable learning the art of expressing a controversial opinion in a constructive manner.

Not once have I been made to feel I am “just” a trainee rep; my opinions have always been welcomed and my suggestions acted upon.

Admittedly, this role has been harder work than I anticipated, particularly with COVID-19. But it has been so worthwhile, to be able to have direct conversations with those within and outside the College who shape the experience of Anaesthetists in Training, and make things even a little better for my peers.

There is lots of work still to do – Anaesthetists in Training have representatives across the country and throughout the College. I’m so looking forward to being joined on Council by a new colleague, so we can further raise the profile of Anaesthetists in Training and make your College more accessible and supportive of your needs.

If you find yourself thinking “nah, I couldn’t do that” – think again, and put yourself forward anyway.

If you are interested in finding out more about opportunities to be part of RCoA Council, do take a look at the College website.

Dr Sarah Muldoon

Consultant Anaesthetist, RCoA Member of Council