Karen Romain

Graduated in 2015

How did you get into medicine?

Initially I thought medicine would be a good option for me as I was generally good at science subjects at school. As part of the application process we were required to gain some clinical experience, and as part of this I spent some time with my Aunt who worked as a palliative care nurse and volunteering on hospital wards talking to patients. This helped me to see that not only was I interested in the science of medicine but also in caring for people.

When applying I chose to visit universities with a variety of course structures. After very nearly dozing off in a lecture hall at one university, I came to the conclusion fully lecture-based courses were evidently not for me and looked to courses with a more problem-based and interactive approach which is what I found in Keele.

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

I felt Keele prepared me well for life after graduation and really helped me to fit the knowledge, communication, and clinical skills required together and build on this each year. I found the balance of going through necessary placements but also allowing for some student selected components, including the final year elective, meant I was able to gain the knowledge needed but also explore areas of interest to help me later select a speciality (and gave me something to talk about later on at specialty interviews). Keele has smaller numbers of students than many other universities in each year group which meant it was often easier to connect with tutors and I didn’t feel lost in the crowd.

How did you decide what to specialise in?

When I went into medical school I had no idea I would end up in psychiatry. However, as I went through each year and explored student selected components and met different patients I found myself repeatedly drawn to this area. It took some time to decide if I wanted to be a specialist in psychiatry or treat mental health in the setting of a GP practice. In the end my experiences of psychiatry as a student at Keele and in my foundation doctor jobs meant I applied to psychiatry training. For me psychiatry was interesting from both a biological and psychological perspective and I felt I wanted to help support this often overlooked patient group. Psychiatry further offered lots of opportunities for me to develop my own interests in teaching, research, and mental health law alongside clinical work.

When did you become interested in teaching?

At the time of interviewing at Keele I was aware a career in medicine meant sharing knowledge gained with others. During university I often felt really anxious about presenting and it was only later on when as a more senior student I was involved in giving revision lectures to more junior students that I started to enjoy this process. When I started specialty training I commenced on a part time Medical Education master’s degree alongside clinical work, as I was able to access funding through the junior doctors study leave budget. This developed my own interest in education, has allowed me to connect with different medical school students, and has supported me to develop a range of learning resources including a website and YouTube channel. The next steps for me will include some medical education focused research to complete this degree. Throughout my training I have been further supported to complete psychiatry related publications and continue to develop this interest.

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

Core training in psychiatry involved rotating through different areas of mental health. So a typical day in psychiatry really varies. Rotations can include spending time in inpatient units, outpatient clinics, forensic settings, and working with those with a learning disability or during childhood.

At the moment my clinical role is in an outpatient psychosis focused team. So I am often seeing patients in clinic (usually over the phone or in video consultations at the moment) or conducting home visits. I often complete urgent assessments which can take place in A&E, inpatient wards, at patient’s homes or even sometimes in police custody! Most importantly though I work in a team and am supported by other doctors, community psychiatric nurses, social workers, support workers, psychologists, and more. This allows for in depth discussion of management plans when needed.

Alongside clinical work I focus on teaching medical students and have been given an honorary clinical teaching fellow post. This also involves developing further learning resources and continuing to complete my master’s degree in Medical Education. My job also includes attending training sessions, working to improve the lives of junior doctors, and developing my own knowledge base further.

Karen Romain, Keele University School of Medicine alumni, psychiatry elective

On elective