Debbie Charles-Obi

Graduated in 2016

How did you get into medicine?

I was very curious about a career as a doctor and loved studying biology at A level, but thought a degree in biomedical science would be more ideal for me. However, as I progressed through the course, I realised that the thought of becoming a biomedical scientist did not excite me, due to the lack of contact with people and long hours at the lab. This became particularly evident to me while doing my dissertation in my final year.

I decided to work as a medical note summariser/receptionist at a GP practice after I graduated. I chose this because I thought it would help me decide if I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Working at the GP practice gave me ample opportunity to ask the doctors questions and shadow them during patient consultations. I even got hospital shadowing experience with the help of the GPs. Gaining a closer perspective of life as a doctor gave me more confidence in my decision to apply for medicine, and with the support of the GPs I worked on my UCAS application. I later attended an open day at Keele University and was drawn to the layout of the campus, the community feel and the friendliness of the staff. I was also intrigued by the problem-based learning (PBL) approach. I felt Keele would be a good match for me.

How did the course at Keele prepare you for life as a junior doctor?

Keele helped me prepare for life as a junior doctor by equipping me with the basic skills of obtaining a patient history, reaching a diagnosis, and formulating a management plan. Through SimMan® training, I was able to gain valuable experience of dealing with medical emergencies in a safe environment. For example, I learnt how to manage a patient with an acute asthma exacerbation and morphine overdose. I particularly found PBL and case-based learning (CBL) sessions useful in helping develop my problem-solving, team work, and leadership skills. Keele also helped me to confidently use evidence-based research to do self-directed learning, which I still regularly use when keeping my medical knowledge and skills up-to-date. The introduction of hospital placements early on in the degree was also very beneficial in getting me familiar with the everyday running of the ward/emergency department. This helped me during my early days of working as a foundation doctor because I did not find the transition so daunting.

How did you decide what to specialise in?

I always had an interest in becoming a GP, due to my prior experience of working in a GP practice. However, I was surprised that during my foundation training I also gravitated towards emergency medicine (EM). In many ways GP and EM have similarities, such as the varied presenting complaints and constant stream of patients. I enjoy this about both specialities.

I ended up becoming a locum doctor in A&E for two years after foundation training to help me decide further on whether to specialise in GP or EM. During my locum years I got married, bought my first home, and started a family. I then decided to apply for part-time GP training to attempt to get a good work-life balance to suit my needs. I am also able to locum in A&E on occasion, which is ideal for me. Once I finish training, I plan to include working in urgent treatment centres and A&E so I can get fulfilment in my career.

How do you find time for your family?

Working as a 50% GP trainee has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have a good balance of working, catching up with portfolio requirements, doing house chores, spending time with family and friends, and dedicating time to my hobbies and interests. My son only goes to nursery three days a week, which means I have more time with him which is very important to me as I don’t want to miss out on his development.

My main hobby is baking and decorating cakes, which I was also fond of in medical school. I often bake for family and friends and also sell my cakes for special occasions. During my foundation training I was very busy with the full-time rota and I was not able to persue my passion as much as I would have liked. However, working as a locum doctor after foundation training and now as a 50% GP trainee, I have more time to bake again!

What does your job involve? What is a typical day like?

As a GP trainee, my job currently involves me rotating through various hospital specialities every four months for two years, with an extended period in a GP setting. At the moment I am doing emergency medicine, which I love. I will be moving onto paediatrics next, which I am excited about as I have not had much experience in this area. I work around two to three days a week and use some of my days off to catch up with portfolio work and webinars, which is great.

I have supervision meetings with my GP educational supervisor once every couple of months, which I look forward to as I am able to be back in a GP setting. With the COVID-19 pandemic it has been interesting learning about the adaptations GP surgeries made to enable continued patient care in a safe environment. I am interested to see if these changes persist long-term and find out what life as a GP will look like for me once I finish training.