We are honoured to have been able to speak to Mehwish about her passion for her career, her home life and the importance mental wellbeing.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Hi, I am Mehwish. I have been a doctor for 14 years now, of which I have been a GP for 9 years. Born and raised in the UK, I have studied and worked in the West Midlands for all my life. My parents are of Pakistani origin and I have very fond memories of visits to Pakistan to see my extended family. I feel very privileged to have been exposed to so much cultural heritage across both countries. I have been married for 13 years to my husband, Raj. Our friendship spans 21 years and he has definitely motivated me through many exams, career challenges as well as much else. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family unit of supportive parents and siblings.
Education has been a key focus as a legacy passed down from my grandparents as well as a real focus on giving back to the community. My mum Samina has been integral in our academic achievements, ensuring we overcame obstacles to excel in our abilities. I love reading in general and was a real bookworm as a child. My favourite author of all time, is Enid Blyton. Due to this, I love writing. I often pen out ideas in poems, articles or social media posts. I have a real enthusiasm for holistic wellbeing, as well as advocating for neurodiversity and inclusion. My greatest inspiration is my 7 year old son, Rayhan. He is a truly happy innocent presence who has taught me the best life lessons.
At what point in your training did you decide on General Practice?
Right towards the end of my Foundation training actually. Having tried all the specialities, I realised I loved the continuity of community medicine. It allowed me to get to know patients over time, providing insight into their challenges and triumphs.
It is so important to have trust and rapport between doctors and patients to really have effective consultations resulting in good patient care and wellbeing. There is so much scope in General Practice to explore special interests with portfolio careers or make changes in leadership roles.
The scope of clinical practice is diverse, and each consultation is unique which really keeps you focused on continuing lifelong learning across all specialities and facets of medicine.
Can you tell me about your first years as a GP?
I continued on at my training practice as a salaried GP initially working less than full time with flexible locum sessions locally. It was a time to really grow confidence, acquiring new skills and identifying areas of interest. Gaining experience is essential in refining your own consultation.
After 3 years, I was a locum GP for a further 2 years as this allowed flexibility around childcare. Since then, I have a salaried role for the last 3 years alongside my portfolio career.
You talk about being a GP as a part of your identity, do you find it difficult to switch off? What methods do you use to turn from GP to mum for example? How do you juggle your role as a mum and as a GP?
I admit I had a lot of mum guilt when my son was younger. For many reasons, we had a very unique parenting journey which came with its own challenges. Being a working mum, with a demanding career comes with its own challenges. I finally resolved this in my mind, identifying where the boundaries are and where I can embrace both roles in my daily life. I put my thoughts on paper for a blog post on BJGP Life https://bjgplife.com/2017/11/21/managing-medic-mum-guilt-gp/
It important to switch off after work to maintain that healthy balance. After work, I address any emotions I am feeling for ten minutes and have various ways to reset that. It can be writing down a few words, a quick debrief with a colleague, some fresh air, a moment of mindfulness or a variety of other techniques. I think that’s where my NLP, coaching and clinical hypnotherapy experience helps.
Time management, organisation, teamwork are useful resources to help juggle it all, but also remembering to be kind to yourself.
How do you think overall morale of primary care staff is currently and what can be done to improve this?
There have been so many workload pressures for primary care but also secondary care healthcare professionals. Gaps in rotas, increasing workloads as well as many other issues have caused significant distress and occupational burnout for many professionals. I am pleased that wellbeing is really being promoted by so many organisations and real conversations are happening, to enable better physical, emotional and mental health for healthcare staff. Many portfolio GPs, like myself, have taken to social media to create positive content and use our skills to benefit our colleagues.
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic has added further strain across the NHS. I can only applaud my colleagues for rising to this immense challenge in such an inspirational, selfless way. It makes me feel really proud to be part of our current workforce. At the same time, its vital to recognise the impact and detriment this will have on so many individuals. Many of our professional bodies have arranged wellbeing services that are accessible. In addition, like myself, some of my fellow coaches are also offering genuinely free sessions to our healthcare colleagues. We are all in this together and just need to help and support each other as best we can.
What are your highlights as a GP so far?
I have been incredibly fortunate to come across many accomplished, compassionate and supportive doctors during the course of my training. I really had the best examples to guide me and help shape the doctor I am today. I do love to reflect on learning curves and my blog post on BJGP life is an example of that https://bjgplife.com/2018/03/19/finding-general-practice-simple-things-well/
At the same time, I have seen such acts of kindness. Many colleagues supported my ‘unconventional’ working days and hours around my childcare commitments. Its lovely to remain connected through the years. Further to this, I have so many heart-warming stories of patients returning a smile when I least expected it. General Practice is such a remarkable career.
Can you tell us more about the coaching and hypnotherapy you do, why you enjoy this and what benefits it brings to patients/staff?
I came across coaching and NLP just by chance and got interested. I decided to do the training firstly to help myself. It made me realise the value of coaching in exploring how to achieve so many goals in all areas of life. I changed my forward 5-year plan! Initially, NLP was an interesting tool for communication but I started to notice the benefit in combining NLP and coaching techniques. Being a healthcare professional myself, I understood the pressures and challenges we faced in our daily lives and hence tailored my coaching services to only cater to healthcare staff. My website is http://www.stethocoach.com/
Hypnotherapy intrigued me from the time I tried a session in my pregnancy days to the positive outcome my teenage sister felt in managing her anxiety symptoms. There is much misconception around hypnotherapy. I have completed the Diploma in clinical hypnotherapy and I love how simple techniques are so effective for a variety of conditions such as IBS, Anxiety, chronic pain, palliation as well as many more. I would say, the main intention behind my sessions is really around the ethical principle to help others.
I will hopefully be running some wellbeing workshops in the future and I am considering ways to implement my skills in a wider way so watch this space! Exciting things to come soon.
What are your top tips for staying on top of looking after your mental health, especially as GPs are currently feeling the pressure at the moment?
1. Self-care – Recognising the importance of selfcare as a priority and not an afterthought, incorporating this into daily life.
2. Insight – Acknowledge, accept and action when you are not ok. Please do not see this as a failure or a shortcoming.
3. Action – Take all the necessary steps to address how you feel and do so quickly. Seek and utilise all your support networks, have honest conversations at work, get support from wellbeing services offered to you, seek professional help if needed.
You are in control of your road to wellbeing, its just about realising that and taking the first steps.
4. Be kind – To yourself and to your colleagues. We are all in this together.
5. Positivity – Seek opportunities to do reframe your mind into a more positive outlook.
6. Gratitude – helps keep us grounded to our true self.
7. Core values – Anchor and revisit your core values and beliefs as this helps build on your strengths.
8. Real connection – Make time for family and friends, make memories.
9. Smile – Laughter really is the best medicine.
10. Admit you are human, feel all your positive and negative emotions fully without guilt, but move forward to the state of mind you wish to be in.
We are in extreme and unprecedented times. This is a time when we all need to draw on all reserves of dedication, willpower, resilience, perseverance and compassion. Its not an easy road, but all is possible with strong conviction, self-belief and a lot of team effort. We all have our part to play and collectively, hope will keep everyone going. I can only express immense gratitude, applause and appreciation for all frontline staff, facing adversity with sheer altruism. Best wishes.