We are nearing the end of another busy term, trying to ensure all urgent and important tasks are progressed, along with most of the important and less urgent ones, while aiming to keep a check on the mountain of those non-urgent and deemed ‘less important’. There are so many demands on our precious time.

For some the term will have seen the start of research work on a successful grant award. For others it will have included the acceptance of one or more prized papers. For others it will have given the opportunity to deliver a new module, take up a new responsibility or undertake a new aspect of education curriculum or staff development. Others will have delivered direct patient care.

The term has witnessed changes in the Faculty and University: we have a new Dean; the university has a new five faculty structure; the search for our new Vice-Chancellor has begun. All of the Faculty’s business has continued within turbulent political times, with ongoing uncertainties about Brexit and indeed our prime minister’s future ( – the vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party is taking place this evening as a write this*).

For many of our students ( – over 400 undergraduates and postgraduates) this term will have been their first at Southampton. Most of them will be returning to family and friends over the holidays. I wonder how they will respond to the inevitable question, ‘How is Medicine at Southampton?’

Earlier this week we delivered a new ‘Faculty of Medicine Research’ afternoon to our first year undergraduates. Although they pass through South Academic Block several times each week, and have teaching with many of our research active staff, most students are unaware of the scale of world-class, multimillion pound research work that goes on in the Faculty. We therefore gave this opportunity for our Academic Unit Heads to showcase some of the research within their areas, to inspire and enthuse, and broaden the outlook of our undergraduates early in their course. We even managed to eke out a budget for snacks afterwards with a chance for students to mingle with some ‘real’ researchers. ‘Fantastic stuff’, ‘really great’, ‘hugely interesting – I had no idea that research actually went on in the hospital’ were some of the comments heard.

And then this evening I received an e-mail from one of our key education leaders to say that a few posters have been displayed outside the lecture theatres on Level B summarising aspects of students’ work on the new ‘Personal and Professional Development’ module that spirals through the curriculum. The final year students have written some really thought provoking paragraphs on ‘What professionalism means, with a focus on ‘Trust’.

There are many insightful comments, including:

‘Trust isn’t just between doctors and patients… each member of the team must
trust each other… if trust fails, performance and teamwork all collapse’.

Our second years spend two weekends working as health care support workers and following this submit a graphic and paragraph on what they have discovered about ‘professionalism’. Many of the contributions cited the importance of effective communication and of showing compassion. One mentioned how some health care support workers had felt that they were given little respect by other members of the care team, and the student went on to reflect how they were challenged in realising that:

‘there was not only a hierarchy of roles and responsibilities in the care of patients,
but also a perceived hierarchy of ‘worthiness’.

So, how was your term in Medicine in Southampton? Most of us will be able to answer that it was certainly busy, and probably mostly productive. I put to you the challenges raised by the comments of our students, and relevant to us all in the various teams in which we work, whether in research, or education, or enterprise, or clinical care: ‘How was your professionalism in building trust in your various teams? Does everyone in your team feel worthy?’

With acknowledgement to Dr Deborah Rose, Dr Siobhan Lynch and Lizzie Keel-Diffey who produced the posters summarising the students’ PPD work, and to the anonymous students whose work I have quoted.

Professor Karen Morrison

*Note added at 22.15pm, 12.12.2018: Theresa May won the vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party by 200 votes to 117

Professionalism – what does it mean to you?

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