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Dr Grace Kettyle (Foundation Year 1), Respiratory Ward, South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen


What motivated you to pursue a career at South- West Acute Hospital?

“Being a Fermanagh native and former pupil of Enniskillen Royal Grammar School, I always intended to begin my career as a doctor in the area that I was born and reared in.  I was privileged to spend three out of my six years at medical school in the SWAH and therefore owe a great deal of my clinical knowledge and skills to those doctors and nurses who took the time to train me.  This hospital boasts a unique, close-knit community of healthcare professionals which is often more difficult to identify in the larger hospitals.  As a medical student, I was mentored by many of the esteemed local clinicians, who are now my colleagues.”

Could you share a significant challenge you’ve faced in your role and how you overcame it to provide quality healthcare services?

“I had the unique opportunity of attending medical school during the COVID 19 pandemic which, of course, slightly altered my training pathway where exposure to critically ill patients came very early on.  This period was one of the greatest challenges both physically and mentally that we faced as students but opened the doors to high-level clinical training and the acquisition of invaluable guidance from expert mentors.  This coupled with the robust training system of Queen’s University Belfast, I believe has benefited me in recent months as I am now the FY1 (Foundation Year 1) doctor on the respiratory ward where we continue to care for COVID 19 patients as well as other seriously ill patients with respiratory conditions.”

How do you believe your role contributes to the well-being and recovery of patients within our community?

“It is senior clinicians that formulate the plans for their patients but as junior doctors, we are the implementers of these plans.  Ultimately the well-being and recovery of patients requires collective teamwork between all members of the multidisciplinary team and collegially working together to ensure the best care and outcome of patients within our community.”

Can you highlight a particular patient interaction or medical achievement that you are particularly proud of, and why?

“SWAH is unique amongst Northern Ireland’s hospitals as it is a teaching hospital for medical students from three universities – Queen’s University Belfast, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and most recently Ulster University.  The teaching and training of medical students is crucial for a small hospital who depends on many of these students returning as qualified doctors to sustain a local well-trained and highly competent workforce.  The temporary withdrawal of Emergency General Surgery from the SWAH in 2022 posed a challenge in terms of ensuring teaching continued to meet the curriculum standards of the universities.  I recognised these challenges as an opportunity to secure SWAH’s status as a leading teaching hospital and therefore, along with Professor Monica Monaghan (Divisional Clinical Director), I instigated and designed a surgical teaching programme that entailed the return of retired and visiting surgeons, junior doctors and the wider multi-disciplinary team contributing to the education of our students.  In recognition of my work, I was awarded a STAR award by the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency. This is a legacy that I leave in the SWAH and hope it will continue for many years.”

How do you ensure the delivery of compassionate and effective care in your specific healthcare discipline?

“As a doctor, delivering compassionate and effective patient centred care is the cornerstone of my work.   One specific example is working collaboratively with the Specialist Palliative Care Team who have a focus on the management of patients with life-limiting illness including co-ordinating end of life care and ensuring those final days are comfortable and dignified for our patients.  Together as a team we liaise with one another regarding treatment plans and medication doses appropriate for each individual.  The amalgamated approach ensures that we show compassion and effective care not only to the patient but also to their families who too often are forgotten about and not supported through these challenging times.”

What aspect of your work do you find most rewarding, and how does it resonate with your personal values and mission?

“Fermanagh is a small county and therefore readers will understand when I say that everyone knows everyone.  It is always rewarding to meet people on the street or in local shops that you have treated and cared for.  Seeing them fit and healthy reassures me that I made the correct decisions in their treatment plans and have hopefully contributed to making a positive difference in their lives.  These encounters remind me of my motivation to pursue this career and instil a drive to ensure continuity of compassionate and professional care.”

How do you manage the demands of your job, and what strategies do you employ to ensure exceptional healthcare service delivery?

“When I started working as a doctor in August 2023, I struggled to maintain a work-life balance.  We were understaffed which meant taking on extra shifts or switching to nights with little notice.  The rota required a great deal of flexibility and therefore making plans outside of work was almost impossible.  Like my fellow FY1 colleagues, we were only weeks into the job and everyday was a learning day.  Over time we have matured as doctors and have adapted to our new roles- the pressures remain the same, but we are better equipped to deal with what we face through the support of one another and our senior colleagues.  As a team we understand that our main goal is and always will be maintaining patient safety, providing an optimal healthcare service that our patients deserve.”

Have there been any mentors or colleagues who have significantly influenced your practice, and in what way?

“Mr Michael Mullan, a former SWAH Consultant Surgeon, whom I have known since medical school has taken the time to train and mentor me.  As a medical student I spent many weekends at his side in the SWAH, learning both on the wards and assisting him in theatre.  He has opened doors that have allowed me to spend time with surgical teams in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin specialising in robotic surgery as well encouraging me to pursue international research and achieve positions on national committees.  I continue to assist him in the state-of-the-art theatres in the SWAH where he continues to perform elective general surgery.  For these opportunities I am sincerely grateful and look forward to working with him in 2024 as part of his surgical team in Craigavon Area Hospital as an FY2 doctor.”

What are your aspirations for the future, and how do you envision the evolution of your role within South-West Acute Hospital?

“As previously mentioned, I have a keen interest in surgery that was heavily influenced by the hours of theatre time I gained as a medical student in the SWAH.  I plan to apply for Core Surgical Training here in Northern Ireland, and if successful this will see me spending seven or eight years in a range of hospitals and surgical specialities across the province.  One of my career aspirations would be to come back to the SWAH during my training years and contribute to the elective surgical services.”

How do you believe your efforts contribute to the overall excellence and advancement of healthcare services in our local community?

“The turnover of patients through the doors of our hospital each day is quite often unprecedented, to the extent that our services and provisions are stretched beyond capacity.  On the most challenging of days the importance of multidisciplinary team input from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and many other individuals who work behind the scenes to ensure swift discharges contributes to the excellence of our local healthcare service.  Having lived and been educated in this local area since birth, it has been a genuine pleasure and above all a privilege to serve this rural hospital.”