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The journey back: Why I returned to my psychiatry career after retirement

Dr Alice McGrath shares her story about returning to her consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist role after retirement.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself

I’m Alice, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at NHS Lanarkshire. 

I mainly see young people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Often, they also have autism. I meet with them to review their diagnosis and assess their mental health needs. I’ll then develop a care plan to outline how those needs will be met. Once I've prescribed the appropriate physiological and pharmacological treatment, I'll have review appointments with the young person. I’ll adjust their medication dose if needed and ask how they're doing. 

At these appointments, we discuss more than just medication. I hear about the young person’s life, schooling, friendships, difficulties, and successes. It's wonderful to know somebody over a long period of time. Those on ADHD medication are often supported by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) until they are old enough to move to adult services.

What inspired me to choose a career in medicine?

Even from an early age, I was interested in working with children and young people. At school, medicine was a career option I was considering. I asked my GP for career advice, which gave me some insight into the role of a doctor. I also worked as a healthcare support worker on a children’s ward before I applied to medical school. Both experiences made it clear that medicine was what I wanted to do.

In the UK, there are 65 specialties and 31 sub-specialties in medicine. During my medical school training, I was fortunate to have a child and adolescent psychiatry placement. It was interesting, fascinating, and enjoyable, and it helped me decide that psychiatry was the right career path for me.

Returning to psychiatry after retirement

I worked as a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist from 2004 until I retired in 2019. Six weeks after retiring, I returned to my career because I love my job and working at NHS Lanarkshire. It’s very rewarding, and I feel supported.

I love working with my colleagues, too. I have a fabulous secretary who I have known for many years, and we are now friends. Many of my consultant colleagues are also friends, and we meet socially. It’s a very supportive working environment.

What’s it like?

I start at 8:00 am, review my emails and prepare for my clinic. I review the case notes of those coming in to see me. My first appointment is at 9:00 am. The half-hour appointments continue throughout the day until 5:00 pm. I meet with each patient and start with a physical assessment. I then plan their care, write their case notes and dictate letters. At the end of each day, I respond to emails, then read and verify the letters before they're sent to the patient's GP.

I also do over 20 annual appraisals for NHS Lanarkshire. I liaise with the person I am appraising to agree on the dates and times to meet and prepare by reviewing their paperwork. Each meeting usually lasts about 2 hours, discussing how the appraisee doctor's year has gone.

After the meeting, I write up their appraisal, recording details of the agreed actions, outcomes, and any learning needs. I then upload the appraisal details to the Scottish Online Appraisal Resource (SOAR).

Patient success stories

I enjoy working with children and young people and seeing them develop over time. I also love hearing about their successes, which are always worth celebrating.

Over the years, I really do hope I've made a difference in young people’s lives. I have received cards from them, and I appreciate the very kind things they said about their care.

Several young people have contacted me years after leaving the service to let me know how they are doing. They’ve reflected on their time in CAMHS and have been very positive about how I looked after them. I hope this demonstrates my ability to listen, understand, and make a difference by using psychological and pharmacological treatments to help them get better.

Reflecting on a rewarding career

I've worked in the NHS for nearly 40 years. Throughout my career at NHS Lanarkshire, I've had many exciting opportunities:

  • I developed my teaching role both as a clinical and educational supervisor and then as a training programme director for regional and national programmes.
  • I've delivered teaching and lectures.
  • I became an appraiser and then an appraiser tutor for NHS Education for Scotland (NES).
  • I've had medical students and core trainees visit my clinics throughout my career.
  • I have sat on committees with service designers, policymakers, and other clinicians.
  • I’ve carried out reviews on behalf of the health service. 

All these experiences, as well as my clinical practice, make the job so rewarding.

Psychiatry department meeting

Work for us

Are you thinking about the next steps in your career as a consultant psychiatrist? I wholeheartedly encourage you to consider bringing your psychiatry career to Scotland.

There are lots of opportunities in NHS Lanarkshire and across the country where you can genuinely make a positive impact in the lives of others. 

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