A supportive and flexible health service for trainees
Dr Sam Lonsdale (34) from NHS Wales tells GP Jobs about the incredible support she’s received throughout her GP training in Wales, allowing her to fit training around her young family
Dr Sam Lonsdale: "After doing lots of research I found I preferred Wales' approach to healthcare"
Why does NHS Wales appeal to you?
When I was choosing a place to train, one of my main concerns was choosing somewhere with a flexible training programme, giving you the option to train on a less than full-time basis (LTFT), so you can devote time to other areas of your life. However, I also wanted to work for a healthcare system I believed in. NHS Wales ticked these boxes and more. After doing lots of research I found I preferred Wales’ approach to healthcare. I think Wales believes more in the original principles of the NHS, as the service was founded here.
What made you decide to relocate and move to Wales?
My husband and I did a fair bit of travelling after our degrees. I completed my medical degree in England at the University of Birmingham, before we both moved to New Zealand. We spent a lot of time there and worked in Christchurch during the 2011 earthquake. We learnt a lot and continued to work abroad in Zambia, teaching locals about healthcare.
When we returned to the UK to settle, we didn’t want to lose the work life balance following our travelling experience, that’s why we chose Wales. We were looking to start a family and Wales offered so much flexibility and help, which really swayed it for me. I now get to work in rural Wales, which is absolutely beautiful and just a 30-minute commute in the car from the vibrant city of Cardiff.
Describe a typical day for you as a trainee GP
I currently work three days a week because I have a young baby and a three year-old, but it’s the perfect amount to balance dedicating lots of ‘mum time’ to my little ones, while also completing my training part-time.
On a working day I’ll drive up to Brecon from my home in Cardiff, which is a lovely, scenic drive through the beautiful Brecon Beacons. I usually run clinic in the mornings and go on house visits in the afternoon. When I return from house visits we usually have an afternoon team meeting to discuss patients before afternoon surgery. Lastly, I try and squeeze in some admin before leaving for the day. It’s jam-packed, but I’m thrown right into it, which is a fantastic way to grow my experience. Also, I love how varied each day is.
What is your favourite part of the working day?
It’s probably speaking to the lovely patients and being in such a supportive practice and health board. I’m not sure if it’s a “Wales thing”, but the people are so friendly and go out of their way to help you succeed. I love being in a work environment with high morale.
"You get a real hands-on experience in Wales and a highly tailored training programme. When I had my children, my training was adapted to ensure I had placements nearer my home.
"My scheme programme director has been particularly amazing and accommodating, and without this support I wouldn’t have been able to work so flexibly and would have struggled with my studies."
- Dr Sam Lonsdale, NHS Wales
How have you found the training in Wales?
The quality has been so high. I think the difference in Wales is that you receive the same high-quality teaching as you would in a large hospital elsewhere, but it’s smaller and more intimate in terms of having development time dedicated to you and you only.
I’m on the Gwent and South Powys GP Training Scheme, and they’ve given me exposure to broad and challenging situations where I’ve had to think on my feet. Despite being difficult at times, it’s enabled me to take on greater responsibility quickly and it’s been a confidence builder.
You get a real hands-on experience in Wales and a highly tailored training programme. When I had my children, my training was adapted to ensure I had placements nearer my home. My scheme programme director has been particularly amazing and accommodating, and without this support I wouldn’t have been able to work so flexibly and would have struggled with my studies.
Do you have plans to become a GP with a special interest after you qualify?
I really love working with the elderly and especially with dementia sufferers, so I can imagine myself specialising in geriatrics later in my career. There are plenty of opportunities to specialise in this field in Wales and lots of support available, whatever I decide to do.
How do you manage your work life balance?
It’s not always easy as a mum with a young family while working in a demanding job, but Wales makes it as easy as possible for you. My husband also works for NHS Wales in a different sector, but both of us have flexible working hours that fit around our family life.
Throughout my training I have worked part-time, three days a week, which has been perfect for me. Then at the weekends we’re always outdoors doing fun activities. We try to do some cycling and used to surf before the babies came along. But with the amazing national parks and coastline on the doorstep, you’re never short of things to do during your time off.
What advice would you offer applicants thinking of choosing Wales?
Do it! We’ve never regretted it. But don’t just take my word for it; there are plenty of other trainee doctors who will say the same. If you have a family or are looking to start one, I can’t think of a more perfect place to be as a doctor. Also, with Wales’ new £20,000 financial incentive for trainee GPs to complete their training and one year of practice afterwards in certain areas of Wales, you’d be crazy not to go for it.
If it’s the high-quality training, personalised and tailored training programmes, friendly work environments and the best work-life balance you’re after, then I strongly recommend putting Wales firmly at the top of your list.
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