In Conversation With...intensive care consultant Edmond Smithers
Our intensive care consultant Edmond Smithers has been at our Trust for 20 years. He became a doctor as it took less years to train for that than to be an architect, although his earliest dream was to be an astronaut!
He’s happily married to Dutch wife Karin, despite the fact they married in her Netherlands homeland in a stately home called Huis de Voorst (pronounced house divorced!)
And when he’s not caring for our patients he’s doing his other job, being a part-time taxi driver for his two children.
Lives: In Billericay with wife Karin and children Connor, 14 and Zoë, 12
And: Before training to be a doctor, Edmond dreamed of becoming an astronaut – he’d still like to join a mission to Mars!
What’s your role at our Trust and how long and you been with us?
I’m a consultant in critical care, and I’ve been a consultant in anaesthesia which I also enjoyed immensely. I’ve been at our Trust for 20 years, it was my first role as a consultant and I’ve stayed here ever since.
Had you always wanted to be a doctor?
No, firstly I wanted to be an astronaut! Then I was really interested in architecture but I wasn’t keen on the seven years of study it took. I was okay at science so I started to look at medicine instead – that was only five years training!
I went straight from school to train at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. I made lots of lifelong friends while training, relationships that are as important to me now as they were then. It’s always great to catch up with medical school colleagues.
My first job was at Basildon Hospital in respiratory care where it was very busy. I then had a great time working at St Albans City Hospital, which was much quieter so I could spend more time with patients and had a better work/life balance.
I considered becoming a GP so started rotations at Colchester Hospital, but in the end I decided I loved hospital medicine so I decided to stay with that.
I worked at the Royal London for four years on an anaesthetic training programme before coming here.
What’s the best thing about your role?
This is interesting because what I like most in my job now is what I liked least when I started out! When I was a new doctor I was very focused on the science behind the treatment I was giving and didn’t spend as much time engaging with my patients.
Now I actually enjoy talking to patients the most, when time allows. It’s crucial that I understand what issues are important to each patient, to guide my decision-making.
I really like working in critical care as with very sick patients because you get instant feedback on the treatment you’re giving. In some jobs it can take years to get positive feedback on what you’re doing.
I also like going home knowing I’ve done everything I can for a patient, and coming in the next day with a clean slate and seeing new patients.
Tell us more about some of the other roles you’ve undertaken while at our Trust.
I was a tutor with the Royal College of Anaesthetists from 2000-2003, responsible for the education and training of our junior doctors. I also oversaw our foundation training programme from 2008-2017. I really enjoy education. I like to see our doctors develop and many of them have kept in touch over the years.
I also set up our simulation training centre in 2008 with support from colleagues including Peter Walker, a fellow consultant, and our Head of Medical Education, Caroline Curtin.
The simulation training allows clinical staff to act out certain situations, using role play to see how they would handle a crisis. It helps with decision-making and using resources more effectively, resulting in a better outcome for patients.
More recently I’ve set up weekly multi-disciplinary meetings across critical care, with the help of Maggie Thompson, ITU administrator, and Jane Clark, physiotherapist. It’s a great forum for staff to come together to discuss their patients and get help with their decision-making, which is really important.
The main thing I’ve learned here is that you need the support of others to get things done. If I achieve anything at work, it’s always because of help, support and time from those around me.
We hear you and your wife Karin have a great story about how you met…
We met in Thailand on the Bridge over the River Kwai. I’d taken off six weeks to go backpacking and she was travelling with a friend. We met on my second day and that was it, we were together for the whole time.
Of course she lived in the Netherlands and I was based here, so I used to work Monday to Thursday and fly to Amsterdam on Friday mornings, staying until Sunday night before returning for work on Monday. It was lovely to leave work and everything else behind.
We married in 2002 at the Huis de Voorst (pronounced house divorced!), a mini stately home in the Netherlands. There was a big picture of William of Orange looking down on us during the ceremony, which was bizarre given my Irish catholic mother was sitting in the corner! (William of Orange was a Dutch king who overthrew King James following the Battle of Boyne in Ireland in 1690, becoming a protestant King of England, Ireland and Scotland.)
What do you like to get up to when you’re not at work?
I’m a part-time taxi driver for my two children, taking them to school, sports clubs and parties. I really enjoy watching them play sport and they do a lot – swimming, netball, hockey, rugby, football…
I also enjoy helping them with their homework. I don’t think either are planning on following in my footsteps!
I like to watch sports too, rugby, water polo, ice hockey - I love all sports. And I love reading.