Dr Robin Youngson's Exceptional Story

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Dr Robin Youngson is an exceptional doctor, author and speaker.

He came to medicine via an unusual route. He initially went to University to study Engineering, but soon realised that medicine was his true calling.

“Halfway through my engineering degree I became more aware of my father’s work and he was a doctor, and I realized the kind of satisfaction that he had from his work,” he says.

He had suffered severe bullying while at boarding school, which had left him with “some part of me, deep in me, that really wanted to attend to suffering in the world.” Robin saw becoming a doctor as a great way to do this. He spent three years in the best-paid engineering job he could find, oil exploration in West Africa, Australia and New Zealand, to save funds for medical school. He was finally able to attend in 1980 and specialised in anaesthetic practice, which he felt had links to his systematic, engineering background.

But Robin soon found that medicine was not a caring profession.

“I think what shocked me profoundly was just the brutalisation and the bullying and the abuse and the dehumanisation that you suffer as a medical student and as a Junior Doctor […] what was supposed to be caring profession turned out to be so brutalising and I think that was the most surprising thing.”

Though things have changed since the 1980s, Robin says; “we still have a really brutalising system and work hugely long hours with often very little in way of support.”

He adds; “we don't have effective role models, we don't have role models of senior doctors willing to be vulnerable, willing to be human, willing to reach out and support junior staff. We have this heroic role model for doctoring which is really damaging.”

A turning point came for Robin when, despite focusing hard on trying to fix and help his patients, he realised he was not as compassionate as he’d set out to be. One evening, he returned home after a 24 hour shift, but was repeatedly called back to the hospital. At the fourth call, at 5am just as he was falling asleep, Robin was irate.

“I drove to the hospital angry, this was really uncharacteristic for me, but I was just really angry and frustrated and exhausted and feeling sorry for myself. When I was halfway to the hospital I suddenly felt deeply ashamed. Shame washed over me because at that moment I remembered why I became a doctor, I remembered that I became a doctor because I wanted to attend to suffering, I wanted to help people and if this was my wife or my daughter that needed an epidural for pain relief, I wouldn't hesitate to get out of bed at five o'clock the morning to go and help them.”

From then on, Robin re-focused his energies on being a more compassionate doctor. He remembered the extraordinary privilege of being a doctor and that this means to heal a person – not to simply fix a machine. After changing his attitude, he soon realised his world changed too.

“Half the healing and the pain relief started before I even put a needle in the patient because of that spirit of compassion, kindness and gentleness.”

Today, Robin and his wife Meredith run the ‘Hearts in Healthcare’ project which focuses on re-humanising healthcare. He delivers talks to organisations, especially directed at those in leadership roles and those who have the power to make a big changes in the profession.

He is the author of Time to Care and Cure the Healer, and in 2016 presented a TEDx talk called Perfectly Broken and Ready to Heal.

You can listen to Dr Robin Youngson’s full podcast in conversation with MedWold’s Dr. Sam Hazledine here. Short on time? Read a summary of the key topics discussed here.

Featured_image_slider_Robin_Youngson.png

Dr Robin Youngson is an exceptional doctor, author and speaker.

He came to medicine via an unusual route. He initially went to University to study Engineering, but soon realised that medicine was his true calling.

“Halfway through my engineering degree I became more aware of my father’s work and he was a doctor, and I realized the kind of satisfaction that he had from his work,” he says.

He had suffered severe bullying while at boarding school, which had left him with “some part of me, deep in me, that really wanted to attend to suffering in the world.” Robin saw becoming a doctor as a great way to do this. He spent three years in the best-paid engineering job he could find, oil exploration in West Africa, Australia and New Zealand, to save funds for medical school. He was finally able to attend in 1980 and specialised in anaesthetic practice, which he felt had links to his systematic, engineering background.

But Robin soon found that medicine was not a caring profession.

“I think what shocked me profoundly was just the brutalisation and the bullying and the abuse and the dehumanisation that you suffer as a medical student and as a Junior Doctor […] what was supposed to be caring profession turned out to be so brutalising and I think that was the most surprising thing.”

Though things have changed since the 1980s, Robin says; “we still have a really brutalising system and work hugely long hours with often very little in way of support.”

He adds; “we don't have effective role models, we don't have role models of senior doctors willing to be vulnerable, willing to be human, willing to reach out and support junior staff. We have this heroic role model for doctoring which is really damaging.”

A turning point came for Robin when, despite focusing hard on trying to fix and help his patients, he realised he was not as compassionate as he’d set out to be. One evening, he returned home after a 24 hour shift, but was repeatedly called back to the hospital. At the fourth call, at 5am just as he was falling asleep, Robin was irate.

“I drove to the hospital angry, this was really uncharacteristic for me, but I was just really angry and frustrated and exhausted and feeling sorry for myself. When I was halfway to the hospital I suddenly felt deeply ashamed. Shame washed over me because at that moment I remembered why I became a doctor, I remembered that I became a doctor because I wanted to attend to suffering, I wanted to help people and if this was my wife or my daughter that needed an epidural for pain relief, I wouldn't hesitate to get out of bed at five o'clock the morning to go and help them.”

From then on, Robin re-focused his energies on being a more compassionate doctor. He remembered the extraordinary privilege of being a doctor and that this means to heal a person – not to simply fix a machine. After changing his attitude, he soon realised his world changed too.

“Half the healing and the pain relief started before I even put a needle in the patient because of that spirit of compassion, kindness and gentleness.”

Today, Robin and his wife Meredith run the ‘Hearts in Healthcare’ project which focuses on re-humanising healthcare. He delivers talks to organisations, especially directed at those in leadership roles and those who have the power to make a big changes in the profession.

He is the author of Time to Care and Cure the Healer, and in 2016 presented a TEDx talk called Perfectly Broken and Ready to Heal.

You can listen to Dr Robin Youngson’s full podcast in conversation with MedWold’s Dr. Sam Hazledine here. Short on time? Read a summary of the key topics discussed here.

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