Have you ever been in the situation where life takes over to the point you don’t recognise anything about yourself anymore?
It happens more regularly than you may appreciate. If that is where you are right now, I hope our Who Am I? features will encourage you in the days ahead.
There are currently a lot of examples of people in Tayside Christian Fellowship being challenged by life and it’s a privilege to hear how they are coping.
Q. First things first, how would you describe yourself - personally and professionally?
My name is Cat Grant. I’m a member of Tayside Christian Fellowship along with my husband, Darren, and two daughters, Isla and Rosie aged 6 and 4 years.
About eleven years ago, shortly after getting married, Darren and I moved to Perth from Dundee where we had both been students. I qualified as a doctor nine years ago and since then I have worked across various specialties, mostly within hospitals in Tayside and in Forth Valley. Five years ago, I decided to specialise in General Practice and I’m now a few months away from finishing this training and being a fully-fledged GP.
Q. How did COVID impact you, for example, change of duties, responsibilities, hours of work, staffing, training
COVID has had a huge impact on everyone, and healthcare understandably has felt the full force of that. It has been really disruptive for doctors in training because many of us were redeployed in the first wave to deal with the surge in admissions.
I was moved from a GP training job in Dermatology to work in the Covid admissions ward within Ninewells Hospital; I was there for about 5 months although it felt like longer! Our rota constantly changed in those months, but I mostly worked 12 hour shifts, switching from day shift to night shift. With a young family this was only made possible because at that time Darren was working in a digital education job and was furloughed.
Q. As the pressures grew over time, on you and your staff, what impact did that have?
Understandably morale was at times low. We witnessed some really difficult situations – which is not unusual in hospital – but the repetitive nature of this and in the beginning the limited treatments we had on offer took its’ toll. No matter how good you are at compartmentalising the job – and medics are excellent at it – it has a negative impact on your wellbeing, and it changes the way you see everything.
Q. What would you say were your lowest points?
5 months of constantly switching from days to night shift on 12-hour shifts was tiring. I like challenge, variety and knowing my patients, and this role at times felt very far from that. I didn’t dwell too much on the low points however because it doesn’t help, and we were in the middle of a pandemic. The whole country was struggling whether that was because of work pressures, financial pressures, being isolated etc.
Q. How did your faith help? For example? Music / scripture?
I often felt very drained from the job and to be honest this is still the case although for slightly different reasons in my current role. I find that my capacity to sit and study is limited, and I don’t read or study the bible as much as I should or would like to. I find encouragement more in listening to worship music or sermons/podcasts whilst I commute. The commute is a rare time where I’m on my own and no-one is asking anything of me! This is often where I feel closest to God and hear him speak to me.
Q. Presumably all of this will have added further pressure on an already busy family life?
In some ways life was simpler in the first part of the pandemic: Darren was home with the girls, and I was either home or working. It was sunny for the most part (as was evidenced by Darren’s suntan!) and we have a garden that the girls enjoy. Like most families we really missed our closest friends and family, particularly my parents, who try to help us with the girls when they can.
Q. You yourself caught COVID. What were your thoughts, feelings, concerns at the time?
Along with a lot of the Covid Admissions team I caught Covid in the first wave of the pandemic before we had the benefit of being vaccinated. I was unwell with it and it took a long time to recover. I had Long-Covid although it wasn’t identified as a condition at that point in the pandemic. Largely speaking I’m absolutely fine now. I was mostly worried about giving Covid to Darren and the girls, although miraculously they didn’t get it despite them not isolating from me.
Q. Were you aware of / surprised by the support from TCF?
Some very faithful members of the church used to ring the doorbell for a chat when it was allowed; this meant a lot. I needed those people who showed care and initiative because I didn’t really have the capacity to initiate that myself.
Q. What has this experience taught you, professionally and personally?
Professionally, it has taught me that I don’t want to work on a rota or work nightshifts anymore! Personally, and for my family it has re-iterated the importance of friends and family and being able to physically meet up with them and go through life with them. Whether the challenge is a pandemic or something else we need those people.
The church is the same; we are a family whose role is to love God and love one another whether we are going through good times or challenging times.