Oladele’s Story: The trainee GP who spent lockdown at Weldmar
Six months that will help shape the career of a local doctor
Oladele Atoyebi is coming to the end of a six month placement at Weldmar Hospicecare’s Inpatient Unit, as he trains to become a GP. Little could he have known about some of the challenges he would face with us, as Covid-19 spread across the globe.
“It was a bit uncertain,” says Dele, “which is a word that everyone has used, regardless of their profession! But I was in the best place I could be for work, and for my training. I was given the opportunity to learn and pick up a lot of things about palliative care. We were still admitting patients to the hospice, and very much focused on looking after them and providing the best care whilst dealing with the pressure of the pandemic.”
As part of his GP training, based at Dorset County Hospital, Dele had the option of placements and selected Weldmar because he had an interest in palliative care. “I haven’t had much experience of this type of medicine”, he says, “and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to learn about the communication, care, and needs that a patient has at the end of their life, and taking care of their family too.”
“One thing I’ve learnt is how to communicate better to a patient and their family about dying, and meeting their needs in the end of life.”
For most of us, a conversation like this would seem rather daunting, but Dele says it’s part of the process. “I just see it as something that needs to be done. I start off by being sensitive, and listening to what a patient really needs and what they want to know. In most cases, the common question is how much time is left.”
It’s that question that proved challenging to Dele at the beginning of this posting. “At the beginning, I struggled with it a bit, because the area of medicine I had focused on is about treating a patient and making them better. It’s different at the hospice, and I needed to learn that this was an aspect of medicine where patients are not likely to get better. They’re dying, and you need to support them and make them comfortable. It’s not a case of curing a patient, it’s being supportive and meeting the needs of both the individual and their family.”
Dele says he has learnt invaluable skills that will serve him well in his career as a GP. “I’ve learnt a lot about pain management, identifying the type of pain someone has, and giving the right drugs and treatment to make them comfortable. I’ve also improved on how I assess symptoms, and finding out the cause of those symptoms and how to treat them. I’ll be able to apply all these new skills as a GP, so they’re not just for a palliative care setting.”
Dele is full of praise for Weldmar and the team at our IPU: “I think it’s a wonderful place to train and work, and everyone has just been fantastic. As a trainee GP, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. The medical director and my senior colleagues have been so supportive, and I’ve learnt so much from them.”
“For patients, it’s just the best place for care at the end of life. I’ve spoken to a lot of patients who have been thankful to be here and receive the care that we provide.”
Those conversations with patients, during his time at Weldmar, will stay with Dele. “I’ll remember the people, and how I was able to support them in a field I was still learning about.”
And as for learning and experiencing all of this during Covid-19, Dele says there was lots of support from Weldmar. “We kept having conversations about how to keep ourselves safe, which helped me feel comfortable working there. I never felt at risk. The Directors and other staff put things in place to make sure everyone felt supported and protected.”
Dr Karen Steadman is Weldmar’s Medical Director, and says, “We have had trainee GP’s on placement here at Weldmar for a couple of years now and have developed a very good reputation for being a supportive and educational place to work. Given most people want to die at home, they will be under the care of a GP. Spending 3-6 months at the hospice hopefully gives these GP’s of the future the various tools to help them in this end of life care work, with emphasis on holistic care, good symptom control and excellent communication skills.
“Dele has been a valued member of the medical team over the last 6 months, where we have all needed to be adaptable due to the pandemic, and we wish him well in his future career.”
Dele has two years remaining on his GP training once his placement at Weldmar comes to an end.