From Medicine to Media: my first experience of TV

Production companies are always looking for attention-grabbing ideas and inspiration for TV shows.

TV advertising is incredibly expensive, so if your business can provide material good enough to be featured on a TV program, it becomes a win-win situation: the production company gets their show, and your business gets TV exposure that could be repeated for months and even years to come.

In the health tech world, we’re lucky because health tends to be a subject that interests people. Shows like Embarrassing Bodies, Doctor in the House and 24 Hours in A&E are just a few of the health-related series that have captivated audience after audience.

The company I work for recently got the incredible opportunity to feature one of our affiliated GPs- we will call him ‘M’ – in a new prime-time health series on ITV, and our Head of Media and I planned to go along to the shoot to supervise.

On the day before the shoot, however, a last minute change of plan meant that our Head of Media could no longer join me… I had to go and supervise the shoot on my own!

I was pretty nervous about this. As well as being totally brilliant at his job, our Head of Media has also done this kind of thing a LOT, and I… well, I had never done it before! He talked me through everything, however, and assured me that I would be fine.

So, on the morning of the shoot, I got to our doctor’s clinic at 7.30 am (early starts in TV!) and explained the plan for the day to the clinic manager. When the TV crew arrived, they set up their cameras in one of the consultation rooms and we had a quick discussion with the producer and M before the filming began. I had to get him to sign a rather scary-looking waiver form before we could start though!

The first task was to film an interview with M. There was no presenter, so the producer just asked him questions and he had to frame his answer in such a way that the viewer would know what the question was (which is surprisingly difficult when you’re under pressure!)

I felt a little sorry for poor M during this bit, because the producer had a very long list of questions and it was also incredibly warm in the consultation room. (The air conditioning had been switched off because the sound guy said the humming noise it made was interfering with the boom mic!)

If I had been wondering what exactly my role was up to this point, I quickly found it out during this session. As well as making sure M had plenty of water to drink and mopping his brow to make sure he wasn’t shiny, I also found myself interfering quite a lot in the interview. The TV crew were very nice and very accommodating, but they had their own agenda and time limits, which naturally took priority over our agenda and needs. I realised I was the only person there who was representing M and the company, so it was important to speak up if our star seemed uncomfortable with a question, or needed a break. It was also my job to get M to make as many company references in as possible! After all, the deal was that we would let them film him in exchange for featuring the company name on the show. I got him to throw in statistics from the company’s research and describe the sector we’re in, as well as mentioning the name a lot.

I thought I was being annoying, but Our Head of Media later told me that I’d done exactly what I was supposed to!

The next part of the filming was M at work. The production company had found two volunteers from a casting website to be ‘case studies’. The idea was that they would each have a GP consultation with M, and then they would all give their feedback on how they felt it went.

We had a few hiccups – we got halfway through the first consultation when the sound guy realised the boom mic wasn’t plugged in! It’s difficult to do things over without losing the authenticity and energy of the first take, but both doctor and patient did very well. It did mean, though, that we were running behind schedule, so before we could shoot the second case study, M had to see a couple of his actual patients. While we waited, the TV crew got more cutaways of the two patients sitting in the waiting room, talking to each other, walking in and out of the consultation room and up and down the street outside.

It was a long day, with a lot of standing around and waiting, but I was glad I was there. It was great to meet a real TV crew and see them at work, and I think M appreciated my presence.

I must have done my job right because the production company called the next day about doing further filming about the research that I had got M to mention! As I walked home, I thought about everything this experience has taught me, and how much I enjoy this side of the job. It makes me wonder how I never thought of working in PR or media before…

I guess, when it comes to a career, you never really know if you’ll like something until you try it…

Giving up my license to practice

walking across field

It felt so cool getting my full GMC registration. In a weird, geeky way it felt like the James Bond part of a medical degree – a Licence to Practice! I was strangely proud and excited.

But today I gave it up.

It was so easy to do – just a simple form to fill on the GMC website, and that’s it. It takes seven years to get that license, and seven seconds to let it go.

I’m still keeping my registration, because for some reason I still feel the need to have a connection with my old profession. I considered renewing my license for another year ‘just in case’, but I can’t really justify the expense as I’m not working clinically and have absolutely no intention of doing so any time soon.

I know it’s reversible. I know it doesn’t make any difference to what I’m doing now, and that it doesn’t take away anything I’ve achieved.

And yet, it still hurts.

It feels like signing the final paperwork in a complicated divorce. I hated Medicine, but I loved it too. As much as we didn’t suit each other, we were together long enough for it to become a huge part of my identity, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

This week, the new F1s take their first fledgling steps in their new jobs, and junior doctors all over the country rotate into new specialties. The turmoil of the last year seems to have had no effect on the numbers of people applying for F1 training – which doesn’t surprise me really. For many it’s their first ever job, and it’s a chance to explore the profession and get a full registration.

I’m floating away from that world. I feel the bonds breaking and the distance widening. I sometimes look back in nostalgia, with that uncomfortable feeling that you were never really right together, but at the same time, you found a way to shift along well enough, and you did have some good moments.

There are times when I catch myself missing it terribly, particularly when I think about how great it was to communicate with patients. I was good at that, and it was the best part of the job. I recently comforted a friend of mine after a scan showed an unwelcome diagnosis, and in her gratitude for explaining things more fully, she lamented my leaving the medical profession, and wished that her doctors were more like me.

It was kind of her to say so, but in reality, when I was working as a doctor I never felt I had enough time to spend with patients to explain, to comfort and to guide, and I was often so exhausted that I could barely muster the energy to care very much. I can only smile at the idea of being a better doctor now that I’m out of the profession, and it makes me ashamed to think of what I was.

I think, having been a doctor, it never truly leaves you. There are some things that, once learned, can never be unlearned. Medicine is strangely addictive in that way.

But I can’t deny that I’m much happier where I am. Looking back and romanticizing my former life simply isn’t sensible, and I am in danger of seeing things through the rose-coloured glasses of hindsight.

It’s time to hang up my stethoscope and move on.