Up to the challenge
After six years as a medical officer in the Royal Air Force Bermudian doctor Joanna Sherratt-Wyer is ready for a new mission as general practitioner.
She is in the process of setting up her new practice, Somers Medical Services, in Woodbourne Hall on Gorham Road in the City of Hamilton.
I have always been interested in a career in medicine, but when I was 18 years old, I felt that 18 was too young for medical school, she said. In the United Kingdom you basically do medical school as an undergraduate degree. I wanted to explore some other options.
She attended the Bermuda High School for Girls and then did her A-levels in England. She was awarded the Nicholl Scholarship to read philosophy, politics and economics at New College, Oxford University.
I had an amazing time at Oxford, but never quite lost the calling to be a doctor, said Dr Sherratt-Wyer. In the end, it was too strong a feeling to ignore.
I had always been interested in medicine. I had a bad experience with illness when I was an undergraduate student. I decided I wanted to not have that happen to anyone else. I was misdiagnosed and badly misdiagnosed. I had a general practitioner who wasnt listening to me. I was not happy with the care I had been given, and I wanted to make sure I was someone who would listen to patients, and listen to people instead of dismissing people. At the end of it I decided I would study medicine after all. I love it.
She went on to study medicine at Nottingham University, as a recipient of the Sir Henry Tucker University Scholarship, and qualified in 2004.
I had intended to join the National Health System (NHS) but they were going through a period of huge turbulence as I was graduating, and it was a time of tremendous uncertainty for doctors, she said. It caused massive amounts of disruption in the United Kingdom for a year or two, and I was really unhappy with that. This made me look at other options, and the RAF I found by accident.
For the air force, I had to do an eight-week officers course. That was just to become an RAF officer. After that I had to do specialist training related to aviation medicine and being a medical officer in the air force. It took four to six months. After that I went back into hospital medicine and general practice. Then I did their specialist training programme for GPs which is the same if it is in the RAF or for NHS.
She worked on a number of RAF bases around England including ones in Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Oxford. She was last based in Lincolnshire.
I was fortunate that I did not see much active service, but I did go on an aeromedical expedition, she said. That was to go and collect patients.
It was an 18-hour trip there, less than 24 hours on the ground and 18 hours back. We collected about four patients.
There were collected for a variety of medical reasons. They have families down there and treat the Falkland Islanders it could be anything from a broken ankle to someone who was pregnant.
That was about four years ago. That was pretty much the limit of the air force outside of the UK.
She was with the RAF for six years. During that time she married Martin Wyer, who was also in the RAF, and they have two small children, Elizabeth and Edward. They decided they wanted to raise their children in Bermuda.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the RAF, and they were brilliant at training new GPs. They were a fantastic employer, and I enjoyed my time there, she said. General practice in the UK is a speciality.
Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners is the culmination of a three-year specialist-training programme for doctors who wish to be GPs. The process is complicated. You must do 18 months working in hospital jobs I worked mainly in paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology and the emergency room as well as 18 months in general practice.
Throughout the training, there are a large number of assessments to complete and an e-portfolio to keep updated which documents that you have read and all of the learning that is done.
In the last year, I had to sit both written and practical examinations to demonstrate my knowledge and competence to practice.
Dr Sherratt-Wyer said that moving back to Bermuda with a medical practice completely different from her work in the United Kingdom, was a bit daunting, especially since she hasnt lived on the Island full-time since she was 16. I have been back here for holidays, but a lot has changed, she said. I keep looking for Trimingham Brothers and HA&E Smith department stores when I walk down Reid Street.
I think the fundamentals of Bermuda are still the same and it is a good place to raise children. It was nice to bring the family back here.
My parents, Marion and Roger Sherratt, are here as well as the rest of my family.
Healthcare is a different entity here. I am on a very steep learning curve, but I have been very fortunate because a lot of colleagues, general practitioners and specialists have been very supportive. It has made the transition a lot easier.
Certainly the medicine here is a lot different from what I was doing. I rarely have to think about whether someone is fit to fly a fighter jet, but the medicine is a lot more complex. It is an intellectual challenge.
She continued: There are a couple of rewards to this job. There is the reward of actually looking after patients and doing a good job with their care; seeing that they are comfortable with their care and feel happy and cared for.
It is important that people can come to their doctor, have a relationship and express their concerns.
Sometimes the most innocuous of comments leads to the discovery of a significant medical problem, or an area that could be improved upon for the patient.
Intellectually there is always something to read about. I enjoy it from an academic point of view. I have done more home work in the last couple of months than I have in a long time. I really enjoy it.
She is particularly proud that her practice will be functioning with electronic health records. This will mean that all of her patient notes are scanned onto the computer and held there.
The system is backed up in a secure offshore database at a number of locations.
In fact, this makes the notes more secure than they would be in a paper-led office that had a fire, said Dr Sherratt-Wyer. Electronic health records also makes it easier to track patient medications, treatments, referrals, so should enable a more efficient service.
For more information telephone 295-1110 or visit www.somersmed.com.
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