Introducing... the HCSA’s new President-elect

HCSA members have endorsed the Association’s first woman President in its 70-year history.

Current chair Dr Claudia Paoloni, a Consultant Anaesthetist at University Hospital Bristol, will begin her three-year term in 2019.

We caught up with her following her election.

What do you do in your ‘day job’?
I have been a Consultant Anaesthetist at University Hospital Bristol since 1991. I specialise in Thoracic anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to introduce and implement several major transformational changes within our Trust with excellent support from our Trust executive, benefiting patient care and hospital efficiency.

The skill set required to be a certified civil and commercial mediator have also been useful along the way!

What inspired you to choose a career in medicine in the first place?
I was the first in my family to follow a medical career and fell into it through a combination of loving science at school and seeking the advice of my mother when choosing a career. Both my parents were restauranteurs and built their business up from scratch, having left school at 16. When I asked my mother what I should do as a career she was very clear of my options: “My darling, there are really only three choices: medicine, accountancy and law – so choose from them.” Being the dutiful daughter I chose one, the one that was most  associated with my love for science. I have never regretted that choice.

What do you love about the job?
Seventeen years on from qualification and I still do not tire of watching the human body work, seeing its diseases and being part of the amazing science that enables us to cure and support individuals of their illnesses. 

And what things make it difficult?
Stress through lack of time and working to meet indiscriminate financially driven targets is the worst part of the job. As a clinician you want to be able to offer the best possible care to patients. You need time to be able to do so and to be able to develop and improve that care.

Science progresses and new techniques and medicines develop. More possibilities of treatment arise, but financial constraints prevent you from progressing or even meeting the current demands of the job.

Too much time is spent on the administration and delivery of service restructure with the aim of driving “efficiency” or “productivity,” but which ironically causes more delays or problems.

Decisions are often made with little relevant input from the clinicians undertaking the work, which is also extremely frustrating as generally, whereas managers change regularly, the clinicians remain for many years and have a wealth of experience that is not utilised enough. 

Do women doctors have it easier or tougher than they used to?
Historically I think women have found it harder to compete with their male counterparts and often found themselves having to “prove themselves” over and above male colleagues to other male colleagues.

I think now, with more women being successfully present in all the previously male-dominated fields of medicine such as surgery and accident and emergency, management and indeed hospital medicine as a whole, there has been a much greater acceptance of women in these areas by their male counterparts.

There is still undoubtedly an element of eye rolling and sighing that goes hand in hand with any request for family-friendly working terms that I believe should be increasingly available. 

How is your own work-life balance?
I enjoy being a mother of three boys, so spend much of my time at the side of football pitches and swimming pools cheering the children on.

We are an active sporty family who enjoy being outside and playing sport or being on the water.

I think being an active mother of young children actually keeps me more balanced and distracted from overly focusing on the stresses caused through working in the NHS, which makes me more able to do my job. This is why I am so keen in the NHS embracing family-friendly policies and terms of working.

How significant is it that HCSA has elected a woman leader?
It reflects a change in culture within the Association – how it is embracing modernisation and its relevancy to the current workforce in medicine.

The workforce is increasingly female and, with that, new challenges arise for us in providing support and advice to employees and employers alike – both are important in order to achieve a sustainable, motivated and successful workforce for the future.