Episode 73: How to Find Your Tribe: The PMGUK story with Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman

Do you feel lonely and isolated at work? Do you feel as if you have no one with whom to share your issues? Are you looking for your tribe—your community of like-minded individuals?

We sometimes separate our professional lives from our personal lives and are totally different people at home. It can be challenging to share your concerns with colleagues but there’s value in sharing vulnerability. Building friendships and having peer support at work is also beneficial to our performance and overall well-being. During this time of limited social interactions, having a strong and supportive work community may keep us from feeling alone. Beyond this, sharing your vulnerabilities creates a culture of acceptance and support.

Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman join us on this episode to discuss the importance of a work community. We talk about the inspiring stories from the online community they created, the Physicians Mums Group UK (PMGUK). Nazia and Katherine also share their tips on how to increase connections and find your own tribe at work.

If you want to know how to create a network of supportive colleagues and feel more connected, then tune into this episode.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Hear the inspiring stories from the Physician Mums Group UK online community.
  2. Learn about how to get support and find your own community of peers online or offline.
  3. Find out Nazia and Katherine’s top tips on how to increase connection, kindness and support in your life.

Episode Highlights

[04:52] The Story Behind Physicians Mums Group UK

  • Nazia was in her first year as a radiology registrar when she got pregnant with her first child.
  • A consultant radiologist then asked Nazia if she would keep her baby. Nazia was shocked that the consultant radiologist believed that she could not train while raising an infant.
  • Nazia didn’t feel supported in the workplace the way she was supported at home by her husband.
  • As she advanced in her career, Nazia realised that she needed peer support. So, she started a group with ten of her close friends.
  • The group grew from ten to 10,000 members in four months. Now, the work community has 21,000 members.

[09:05] Katherine’s Involvement in the Group

  • Katherine was added to the PMGUK Facebook group.
  • She eventually had the opportunity to get speakers to do live conversations in that group.
  • Katherine likens the work community, or the hive as they call it, to Google. She always gets answers there.
  • She also feels as though sometimes, posting on that group is safer than talking to colleagues.

[11:36] Being Vulnerable in the Workplace

  • Nazia thinks that work culture has a lot to do with why we’re not comfortable sharing our issues.
  • We think that we’re not supposed to bring our issues, especially about parenting, to the workplace.
  • Nazia believes that we have to change this culture and create a more supportive environment.
  • Nazia believes that your vulnerability is your strength. She encourages you to keep sharing your stories because you’ll never know who you can inspire.

[17:23] How Members of a Work Community Support Each Other

  • PMGUK provides multidisciplinary educational support because members come from different backgrounds.
  • Some members even help with childcare, medical support and financial support.
  • The work community also supported a few members who were domestic abuse victims.
  • Listen to the full episode to hear more inspiring stories of how the PMGUK members support each other!

[23:02] Advice for People Who Need Support

  • Katherine thinks that you can’t wait for other people to be kind to you. Be the first person to do small acts of kindness.
  • The more people are thanked and valued, the more they repay the favour and pass it on.
  • You don’t have to do grand gestures. You can start with little things that can ripple through your work community.
  • Nazia advises you to talk to someone when you’re feeling alone or overwhelmed.

[25:28] How to Find Your Work Community

  • The first step is finding commonalities that will help bring you all together. These may be shared interests or values.
  • Share your vulnerabilities and be honest. Don’t only talk about your successes; share your issues too.
  • Your work community doesn’t have to be online. You can schedule regular meet-ups with peers and have informal bondings.
  • Build connections with your colleagues. You can do this by finding a common topic or interest that you can talk about.
  • Connecting with patients can also transform your days.

[32:11] Issues Experienced by the Members

  • COVID-19 has exposed the issues and cracks in the system.
  • Issues of being alone and having less human connection were also raised in the work community.
  • The members also experience more personal struggles, such as parenting and homeschooling.
  • They noticed that more men were availing counselling services than women.
  • This may be because men tend to keep their issues more to themselves.

[35:31] Tips on Increasing Your Connections, Kindness and Support

  • Treat others how you want to be treated.
  • Don’t act like the victim. You can reach out to others first.
  • If you’re a leader, you need to make connections with everyone in the team.
  • Be kind and listen.
  • Connect with people.

7 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

[08:52, Nazia] ‘Yeah, now I realise, when the group was started, it was, I’m not alone. There’s so many in the same boat as me. They are going through the same stage of life, and that was incredibly helpful’.

[11:00, Katherine] ‘99 times out of 100, you’re going to get an outpouring of support. And if not support, equally some very sound advice very often and sound checking with what you’re doing as well’.

[12:01, Nazia] ‘Unfortunately, we are not supposed to talk about things, about our issues, about our vulnerabilities, about stressors or about being a parent. I think that’s something which has to change’.

[15:23, Nazia] ‘I think we need to have these chats about our failures, about our vulnerabilities, about our issues. Because at the end of the day, it’s a strength, actually. Your vulnerability is your strength’.

[24:08, Katherine] ‘The more people are thanked and feel valued, the more likely that they are then going to repay the favor and pass it on. And it’s something about changing that culture, and the culture changes with one small act’.

[35:55, Katherine] ‘I think there’s something about treating others how you want to be treated and not just waiting around’.

[36:40, Nazia] ‘My top tip would be just share your vulnerability with people around you. Connect with people, and you cannot do it alone. Sometimes it’s important to connect and speak about your issues. Don’t keep it to yourself; talk about it’.

About Nazia and Katherine

Nazia Askari-Haider is a consultant radiologist in the NHS. She founded Physicians Mums Group UK. It is a work community with 21,000 members that aims to provide a safe and supportive space for mothers who are medical practitioners. Having experienced a lack of support in the workplace, Nazia is passionate about giving people opportunities to be more open. By sharing their experiences with others, physician mothers can feel less alone in braving through their professional and personal lives. To connect with Nazia, visit PMGUK’s website or follow her on LinkedIn.

Katherine Hickman is a certified Life and Tiny HabitsⓇ coach. She supports medic mums to gain back control of their lives. With 18 years of experience as a GP and three kids, Katherine understands how difficult it is to juggle many responsibilities. Through her personal experiences and her medical background, she helps medic mums make lasting and sustainable change in caring for themselves. You can reach Katherine through The Joyful Doctor or follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Frogs generally have only two options — stay and be boiled alive or jump out of the pan. Fortunately, you are not a frog. You have many more options, choices and control than you think.

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Episode Transcript

Dr Rachel Morris: Do you ever feel isolated and alone in your job and like there’s no one else like you in the same boat? Do you wish you had someone alongside you who just gets it? And have you ever wondered how to go about finding your tribe at work?

In this episode, I’m joined by Dr Nazia Haider, consultant radiologist and founder of the Physicians Mums Group UK, a Facebook group of over 20,000 doctors, and Dr Katherine Hickman, GP, Tiny Habits coach and friend of the show, who’s part of the team that manages this Facebook group. We talk about just why it’s been so successful and the power of a kind community of peers. We talk about the importance of talking about our struggles and share stories of how the PMG UK Facebook group has helped support its members both emotionally and practically. We also talk about how to find a tribe of kindred spirits on or off Facebook.

So listen if you want to find out how kindness and gratitude can make all the difference in challenging work environments. Listen, if you want to know why sharing your vulnerability and struggles with work colleagues can create a powerful culture of acceptance and support. And listen if you want to create your own network of supportive colleagues.

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for GPs, doctors and other busy professionals in high stress jobs. Even before the coronavirus crisis, many of us were feeling stressed and one crisis away from not coping. We felt like frogs in boiling water overwhelmed and exhausted. But this has crept up on us slowly so we hardly notice the extra long days becoming the norm. And let’s face it, frogs generally only have two choices: stay and be boiled alive or jump out of the pain and leave. But you are not a frog. And that’s where this podcast comes in. You have many more options than you think you do. It is possible to be master of your own destiny, and to craft your life so that you can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances.

I’m your host, Dr Rachel Morris, GP turned executive coach and specialist in resilience at work. I work with doctors and other organisations all over the country to help professionals and their teams beat stress and take control of their work. I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues and experts all who have an interesting take on this. So that together, we can take back control to survive and thrive in our work and lives.

For those of you listening to the podcast who needs to get some Continuous Professional Development house under your belts, did you know that we create a CPD form for every episode so that you can use it for your documentation and in your appraisal? Now, if you’re a doctor, and you’re a fan of inspiring CPD, and you’re sick of wasting a lot of time you don’t have on boring and irrelevant stuff, and why not check out our Permission to Thrive membership. This is a new venture, a joint venture between me and Caroline Walker, who’s the Joyful Doctor, and every month we’re going to be releasing a webinar fully focused on helping you thrive in work and in life.

Every webinar is accompanied by an optional workbook with a reflective activity so that you can take control of your work and your life. You can increase your well being and you can design a life that you’re gonna love. You’ve got to get those hours so why not make your CPD count? Choose CPD that’s good for you. So check out the link to find out more.

Now. Thanks for listening to my shameless plug. And back to the episode.

So it’s fantastic to have with me on the podcast today. Dr Nazia Haider. And Naz is a consultant radiologist and the founder of the Physicians Mums Group UK, which is a Facebook group, which we’ll talk about more in a minute. And I’ve also got Dr Katherine Hickman, who’s a GP and a Tiny Habits coach, and mentor. So welcome both of you.

Dr Nazia Haider: Thank you, Rachel, for having us.

Rachel: Oh, it’s fantastic to have you on the podcast. And I wanted to talk to you both for a long time. Because this PMG UK Facebook group is just fantastic. It’s been a real source of support for so many medics and mums. It’s for physicians, who are also mums who are based in the UK, although I presume, actually, it’s starting to get a bit of a more of an international flavor. Is that right?

Nazia: That’s correct. Yeah, we have got quite a few members who are based in Australia, New Zealand, US.

Rachel: And it’s I think one of the most active groups I’ve ever seen on Facebook. So hundreds of posts every day, and a huge variety of posts and huge amounts of support. And I wanted to get Naz and Katherine on just to talk about this, this concept of peer support, why it’s so important and how we can foster that for ourselves and our colleagues because I think for me, it’s one of the biggest well being factors.

But I just wanted to start by hearing a little bit more about the Facebook group. Because Naz, you set it up originally, can you tell me why you set it up and the The story about it

Nazia: It began a decade ago when I was a registrar—a first year radiology registrar and I was pregnant with my first child, Shiza. And I was to set my first fellowship exam of Radiology. And as everyone else, I was quite excited to be a mum. I was the only pregnant female slash mom in the whole five year training scheme.

So, one day a consultant radiologist, she came and wanted to have a chat with me. But what she said shook me up so much that I knew that today would never be forgotten. She asked me, ‘So now once your baby is born, what would you do with her? Would you keep her? Or would you send her to your parents back home in India’? And that really surprised me. I was not expecting that when she said it was a very genuine question because she believed that I would not be able to do my training and pass my exams with an infant.

And that—I was immensely supported at home, because I have a very supporting husband. But that support, I never saw that at workplace. It was a very different culture for mums who were getting trained. So this question, it came in different shapes and forms all through my training. And people kept on asking me about how will I cope. And I must say that, at that time, I wished that I had someone who was in the same boat as me, whom I could speak to, and who could connect with me.

So fast forward, seven years on, I completed my training, I passed my exams, and I had another daughter. And I was going to the next stage of my career to start a consulting job. I had decided to take a job in a workplace, which was predominantly male dominated. And those questions again started coming me, ‘How will I cope’? ‘What will they say’? Will that be the same again? But I tried to ignore it. Then I did my interview, I accepted the job. And then I realised that those conflicting thoughts, again, started coming back to me, which I experienced as a young registrar.

And they were quite strong, and I actually started getting worried, and I think that’s why I thought, I need some help. I need that peer support. I need people who are in the same boat as me. I need them with me. So at 10 o’clock in the night, I started a group, added 10 of my very close friends. And I boldly created this group. I’m saying boldly because that was a big step for me. I knew I was exposing myself to my close friends. They would now know that I am worried. I’m stressed. And I have questions.

We don’t talk about these things, Rachel. We don’t talk about our issues. We don’t talk about insecurity. We have a very important phase when we go out. So we started so I added those close friends. And then we shared our experiences. And I did not realise what I had created till the number grew from 10 to 10,000 in four months’ time.

Rachel: Four months?

Nazia: And yes, that’s how the PMG UK tribe was born. And here we are today. We are 21,000 strong.

Rachel: Wow, that’s incredible. And I really love the fact that you started it because you’re not from any grand motivation. It was just literally, ‘I need some support I need to share, I need to know that other people are in the same boat and get their thoughts’. Because I guess when you’re in that workplace, you are quite isolated. You might be the only one who’s at your particular stage of life with your particular number of kids. But nationally, there’s loads of people.

Nazia: Yeah, now I realise. When the group was started, it was I’m not alone. There’s so many in the same boat as me, they are going through the same stage of life and that was incredibly helpful.

Rachel: Katherine, how did you get involved?

Dr Katherine Hickman: So I was on Resilient GP, which is another Facebook group. and somebody suggested that I posted my question, it must have been something more mum related on PMG UK. And she said, ‘I’ll add you’, so I was added to this group. And then it was around about the time of the conference and I was involved in another conference said, ‘How about getting the speakers into the group to do some live conversations, live chats about what they’re going to talk about at the conference? So I was like, ‘Great idea. And yes, you can interview them. Go live. And then and then emcee the conference’, and the rest is history.

Rachel: How have you found it’s helped you, being part of the group?

Katherine: I think I was saying earlier when we’re chatting is that I would now default to PMG UK as my Google. I think every single time the hive that we call it has come up with an answer apart from when my fish started losing their—fish losing fin and there was nothing in PMG UK. I was a bit disappointed. It is called fish rot apparently. Sounds a bit gutted.

But, I think on a more serious note, I think going back to what we’re saying about not being able to talk about things when you’re in a work environment, because I think there’s something about that vulnerability, not wanting to expose yourself to your work colleagues as being stressed or anxious or not coping because there’s always that risk. ‘If I expose myself then am I going to lose my job? Am I not going to get promoted? Or am I going to be talked about behind my back’?

Whereas, ironically, posting in online—it’s a private group, but it’s not as bad as 21,000 members strong, sometimes posting on there feels safer than sometimes talking to colleagues, which seems bonkers, but that’s how it feels. It feels like a very—nothing is completely safe and secure on the internet. Absolutely. But I think it’s as safe and secure as you’re going to get posted in that group. And 99 times out of 100, you’re going to get an outpouring of support. And if not support, equally sound advice very often, and sound checking what you’re doing as well.

Rachel: I think that sound checking is really important sometimes, isn’t it? ‘I’m thinking about doing this, what do other people think’? And we’re not born to live in a vacuum, aren’t we? It’s very, very hard to make loads of decisions that you don’t quite know, right and wrong. In particular, when it comes to parenting. There are so many conflicting advice givers out there. It’s just really nice to know that, ‘Actually this way is good. And actually, that was good as well’.

I was just going to pick up a point about why is it easier to disclose and be vulnerable online than it is face to face?

Nazia: When we feel very comfortable and safe then we ask questions in the group. And when we go in the real world. And you speak to those members. I think we are not really comfortable in opening up. I think it’s about the culture, isn’t it? The word culture is still the same. Unfortunately, we are not supposed to talk about things about our issues, about our vulnerabilities, about stressors or about being a parent, I think that’s something which has to change. And we have to change it somehow.

Rachel: That’s a really good point because—you’re right. I can see people being vulnerable in the workplace about certain things, but there’s not a lot of vulnerability about the issues of being a parent in the workplace. Maybe because we fear being judged or we’re feeling guilty for not working enough or not being at home enough. You always feel guilty for sort of both, don’t you? Or and I—genuinely it’s not not discussed very much at work, is it?

Nazia: No, no, it’s not. If Katherine would remember, there were quite a few members—there was quite a strong movement in some ways in your back when they really wanted us to create something so that they could recognise the PMG UK members at workplace because they really wanted to go and connect to them because they said ‘Look, if we if we get a member of the hive there, we would be fine, because we know they would support us. Can you please create something like that’?

Katherine: Yeah, I agree. And short of like a secret handshake. Actually, that’s a really important…

Rachel: I think you’d like to have a hair pin or something.

Katherine: My lanyard. I wear my PMG UK lanyard from the conference. So, new solo doctors over would instantly recognise that as their PMG UK member. But actually, it’s a really good important point that there are subgroups and people that meet locally on WhatsApp groups, and it’s almost like how do we infiltrate this at a work level is actually is key. Because all it takes is that one person for you to then connect with them and start to make the ripples and the domino effect within whatever organisation that may be, whether it be a GP surgery or a bigger hospital trust organisation.

Rachel: I’ve been in the workplace now 25, 26, 27 years. It’s actually for us to start speaking up and talking about being a parent and making it okay to talk about so that other people coming through can see that. Because as soon as one person’s saying it, then other people—and I guess that’s exactly what’s happening online. One person has said it, then there’s been noticeable support. So then other people can say and it snowballs. So you just need one or two people to start talking about it and start with—like you said as being vulnerable and disclosing the struggles that they’re having because then it just makes it okay for everybody else.

Nazia: Yeah, yeah, I’m It’s okay. I’m trying to do this more and more at workplace. As a radiology consultant, we sit in a darkroom, we are not one of the nicest people around. I think it was yesterday I was on call and one of the juniors came down and she was almost in tears because she was the foundation doctor and she did—She couldn’t really finish her job and she was told off by the nurses.

And, I just made her sit down and I was like, ‘Look, you’re not a failure’, and she was like, ‘You know, I’m sorry, I’m disturbing you as well’. I said, ‘Look, this is something which I went through as a foundation doctor, and it’s absolutely fine to fail. We are human beings at the end of the day’. And I had a chat with her and she was so happy. And today I got a text from her that, ‘Thank you for supporting me, you really made my day. You made me feel so much better.

So I think we need to have these chats about our failures, about our vulnerabilities, about our issues, because at the end of the day, it’s a strength actually—your vulnerability is your strength. And when we all talk about it, then it becomes a power as what it has become in PMG UK.

Katherine: It should be seen as a positive thing, vulnerability. I think I think it gets—the trouble is it’s a very, very often women are described as being vulnerable. And it’s not, it’s very often not said in a positive way either. But actually, being vulnerable and open and honest is really important. And for that exact reason that actually—I’m going to start mentoring GP, so just two years out of qualifying as a GP, and I see that it’s such a privilege. It’s that right, I tell them my burnout story. I tell them that I look completely sorted out. But six, seven years ago, I was a shell, I couldn’t do anything. But actually—and if I’d known what led up to that, I probably would never have let it happen. But actually, this is my opportunity to, if I can prevent one episode of burnout by just being that mentor for them. Yeah, my job is done.

Rachel: And you can you can hear Katherine’s story on I think it was maybe Episode Three, Four or Five, wasn’t it? Really early on Tiny habits, big changes. I thought Katherine’s been on describing that. But it doesn’t take many people in the workplace, does it? It just takes one or two to make a huge difference. And surely, everyone can think of one person who inspired them as they were a junior doctor coming through, or one person that was kind to them. So it’s not much.

Nazia: It does go a long way, isn’t it? And it and you never know who—I mean, at least on PMG. UK, I keep on saying that. You never know whom you have inspired, because you keep on telling your stories because your story, these are strong, these are really strong, your stories to inspire many. And they do go a long way sometimes.

Rachel: And I think it’s not just sharing vulnerability, but it’s actually supporting as well. And I’ve been so impressed by the way that the members of the PMG UK group have actually supported each other. And as you’ve got some amazing stories of what’s gone on.

Nazia: There have been stories about the educational support, which this group provides. As I said, ‘This is the only forum which has abroad are the primary and the secondary care doctors under one roof, and other clinical scenarios which are discussed. It’s fantastic, because you get input from a GP, you get a specialist input.’ So it’s more of like a complete multidisciplinary team approach of a case, which was lacking before. So we discuss clinical scenarios.

And this group is often suggested by appraisers for CPD, and I’ve got many members who have joined the group because it was suggested by the appraisers. We have supported a few members, unfortunately had cancer. And we did support them on the group. And few of the members actually went to their house and supported them with childcare, which was a big thing. We did support them financially as well.

They have quite a few members who are domestic abuse victims. We did support them on the group and a few of them I spoke to—one of them actually, who was a domestic abuse victim and she was moving from one city to another. And in every city, she got a PMG UK member to support her. And now when she’s out of this whole thing, as she’s now settled, she has been sending me pictures of her kids. And she said that, without the support of the group, she would not have been able to get through this.

It’s not just in the UK, outside the UK as well. We have provided support. So there was a poster who posted on the group about her mother. She went to Milan, and she developed a pneumothorax. So she was quite worried. So she posted on the group. And the group immediately responded. And within two hours, she got help in Milan. And they planned the route back from Milan to home. And she was sorted within two hours. So I think that was incredible.

So this was the usual stuff which we used to do pre COVID but COVID completely changed—It changed everything.

Rachel: Tell us something that had a real impact on you through COVID that really touched you when you read about it.

Nazia: There was another story where one of the members’ grandfather tested positive for COVID. And he was dying. She was around hundreds of miles away. And with lockdown, she couldn’t really go there. So she was feeling very upset and sad. And she knew that he is going to die. He was not up for escalation as well. So she posted on the group telling them how she feels and wished if one of the members could go and give a virtual hand squeeze to the dying grandfather. And if someone could just tell him that she loves her. And also, could someone tell her the arsenal score, which was granted. Someone who was working in the hospital, went in and helped her out. And so sadly, he died.

And then after a few days, she posted an update saying that, ‘The power and kindness of the group will never be forgotten. I know he’s not with me. But I know that he was not alone when he was dying’. And that’s a big thing, isn’t it?

Rachel: Yeah. And I think it’s kindness, isn’t it? I think it’s the kindness that’s coming across. And then kindness is so—well, in this day and age, it’s so, so important isn’t it?

Nazia: You remember the story of the lady of the member whose daughter was…

Katherine: Yeah, I was just thinking of that. Yeah, she posts about a daughter being bullied and it was a birthday coming up and she’d not had any friends and oh, my God, that there was just this outpouring of gifts sent to this girl. And I think that the member was out. So the husband… And she posted it. I was in tears. Yeah, it was.

Nazia: So it was one of the hive members whose daughter was bullied and trolled at school. It was a birthday coming up, and she was alone. And the mother was quite sad. And she was feeling very lonely, didn’t know how to tackle it. So she asked the hive, she posted on PMG UK and took advice from the hive. Or to be honest, just sharing her emotions rather than asking for advice. There was overwhelming support. As Katherine said, there were hundreds of cards of love and support, hundreds of gifts which were actually sent to her from complete strangers. It lifted her spirits. And she said she felt like a celebrity. So it’s great, because we are not just helping each other out. We are extending our support to other family members. It is incredible.

Rachel: I think that’s fantastic, isn’t it? And it’s just, it just strikes me that there’s this huge unmet need out there for professionals in these high stress jobs, for connection, for support, for wisdom, for a bit of kindness. And it’s just so fantastic that PMG UK has been able to do that for this particular section of mums who are also doctors.

Well, I’m just thinking, what advice would you give to other folks out there who are in different professions or different genders or just different sort of demographics who desperately need that support and connection and kindness but feel that they’re very isolated? And then they’re not getting that at work? I mean, Katherine, what would you sort of be advising them as a mentor?

Katherine: I don’t think you can wait for other people to be kind to you. But you can do something. I know there’s just been random acts of kindness there, which my kids are very excited about. But actually, why don’t you do something? And it’s almost being the trailblazer, the first person to do it. Everybody’s got some kindness in them.

So often we have these thoughts that say, ‘Oh, that was great. I should thank them for that’. And then we don’t. Like our practice manager at the end of the meeting yesterday. They went round everybody individually. It’s a team’s meeting. It’s a nightmare. Asking everybody who did not contribute or was a bit quiet: ‘Everything okay? Do you want to say anything’? And I thought that’s so good. It was just such a small thing. And I thought I must thank him for that. Because it’s—the more people are thanked and feel valued, the more likely that they are then going to repay the favor and pass it on.

And it’s something about changing that culture and the culture changes with one small act. It really does. And it’s just simple things like saying hello, saying thank you, offering somebody a cup of tea, tiny little things, filling the catalog after it’s empty, emptying the dishwasher. Just little things that start to ripple through an organisation. I don’t think it’s about—the big shifts are great, but it’s got to start somewhere.

Nazia: I think I would just like to add that. If you’re feeling alone, and if you feel overwhelmed, just don’t keep it to yourself, talk to someone, talk about it. Try and get support. There are many support mechanisms in place. We are lucky to help you in PMG UK. But there are many other support mechanisms in place. And within the NHS—In fact, outside the NHS, talk about it, talk about your issues.

Rachel: I think one of the things that I am struck by though, is needing to get—we need support from our set of people, or both, we need support—but we need support from our peers. And the thing that struck me about this Facebook group is that it’s 100% peers, you know that they’re people in exactly the same boat. Because sometimes the best one in the world, someone from a completely different organisation in a different job just has no idea what it’s like, to do this particular, ‘I have no idea what it’s like to work as a lawyer’, for example, trying to close a deal at 3am. This must be really tricky. And you need support from people who are in it at the same time and know.

So how would you go about finding your tribe and finding those peers if you are feeling a bit isolated?

Nazia: The first step is to find the common thread. And that will help in bringing you all together. But it’s different from being together to hold on being together. It’s about having the core set of values, which we follow the same ethos, which we follow. Share your vulnerability. Be honest. Just don’t share your success and share your issues, share your crisis, a form of growth, have a peer support around you and be honest with them.

And I must say that the first step is going to be hard. It’s never easy, but it’s not going to be a smooth sail, but hang on to it. Katherine is nodding her head. For us as admins, it’s never been a smooth sail. It’s been really hard running a group. But hang on to it, and it will be good.

Rachel: Yeah, I think I like what you said, create a peer support group. And for some people that might be online, that might be a Facebook group or that might be a Whatsapp group or Clubhouse, all these different things. But actually for other people that might be a meet up for a meal once a month with some friends.

I was at a course a couple of years ago doing one of the lead management courses and this GP came up to me because I talked about the power of sort of connection and things like that. He said that he’s been meeting with his young practitioners group for about 40 years now. And they still go on weekends, every year. they go on a weekend away as the young practice—they’re all newly retired. But he said it’s honestly been the thing that has kept him going throughout his practice just knowing—even if you don’t see them that often knowing that there’s a bunch of people that you can just just share with. And knowing that they’ve got your back.

And just like Katherine said, you might need to make the first step with with some of these things, and go out and find people but the worst that can happen if someone says ‘no’, presumably,

Nazia: It’s not going to be easy, but it’s important to find that common thread, that common support.

Katherine: They might say ‘no’, but when you’ve gone from 10 to 10,000, in four months, they’ll join then.

Rachel: I’d like to see a peer support group in a pub meeting with 10,000 people.

Katherine: That would be good.

Rachel: Yeah, even just coffee once a month somewhere or Zoom chat, things like that. I think we sort of forget that is something we’re in control of, who we’re connecting with, who we’re hanging out with. And, I’ve lost touch with a lot of people I used to work with, but I know that I could, if I wanted to just just reach out and go, ‘Hey, are you free? Can we go for a coffee? Can we go for a walk and just just touch base with people’?

Nazia: I’m trying to do that at workplace to be honest, because it’s quite hard. I found it quite easy. As you know, me and Katherine, we are friends now.

Rachel: Could confirm that.

Nazia: As I said, it was quite hard. And having those, the admin team which shares the same core values as me has helped. Having people like Katherine,Roxy and Maria, I think that does make a huge difference.

So yes, I’m trying to find that common thread or ritual at workplace because I’m still finding it hard to get that same goal, which I get on PMG UK. But I’m trying to, as I said, trying to find the common thread. So I know this person is interested in painting. So I just go and talk to her about painting, and I try to warm up, something other than work. And on that common topic, I genuinely try to have a chat with them. And so we have got quite a few now at workplace who have common interests, and we go out we have a cup of tea together and talk about those topics. And yeah, that helps. That helps a lot.

Rachel: I was listening to a podcast recently. I’m talking about this all the time. So apologies to anyone who’s heard me talk about this before but that’s how to create connection in the workplace. And it’s interesting, it doesn’t take long. Apparently it takes 40 seconds to form a deep connection with someone, but it’s about really seeing that person and some self disclosure can be helpful.

So if someone says, ‘How are you going’? ‘A bit tired today, because I’ve had a difficult weekend with the baby’, or whatever. Or just, ‘This is what I’m struggling with can be really helpful’. But also, just even remembering people’s names that’s a big thing. Or finding uncommon commonalities. So as you said, ‘You’re that person who’s into painting’, well, if you were as well. And that’s something you can really connect with, because that’s something that you’ve both got in common. So I think sometimes we just feel that we don’t really need friends at work.

Nazia: We do need friends at work, I think we do.

Katherine: Yeah, if nothing else to have a laugh. It’s so important, humor is so important. And essentially we say about making that connection, I think there’s something about making connection with patients as well, especially in this time. And I really felt it yesterday, this woman who I think I met her face to face, but she said, at the end of it, ‘I just—I could just listen to you all day. I’ve just loved you so much. It’s mainly mainly because I don’t really know what to do with you’. But it was just so nice, because there is so little human connection now isn’t there? And actually, she was craving it. And I was probably craving it a bit as well. And, we did the serious stuff, but we had a laugh as well. And it was really—she left smiling. And I smiled when I brought up her notes.

Rachel: This makes the whole day better, doesn’t it? It can transform a morning or an afternoon. And we’re working long enough, not to be miserable while we’re there. We need to connect. And also, I mean, I always said even if you don’t think you need friends at work you do just because if you have that difficult patient, or something that you just need someone to debrief who’s not going to judge you, who’s just gonna sit and listen.

Nazia: And if you’re having a bad day, I think—I started opening up to people and I have been telling them, ‘Look, I had a tough day because there was so many patients’. And I found it difficult, because no one talks about it. And so I think we have to start talking about our issues and be open and honest about it.

Rachel: I know. But we haven’t got a huge amount of time left. Very quickly, what sort of things are coming up in the group, issues that our people are particularly struggling with right now? We’re just at the end of lockdown three, particularly with relation to work.

Katherine: It’s quite—it’s a mixed bag, isn’t it? To be honest. With regards to COVID, so I would say because you know the questions which are coming in…

Nazia: Now I’m running PMG, UK, and there’s a subgroup of PMG UK, which is the COVID group. So the questions are varied. Initially, it was all about PPE, about different guidelines, about research, what is the right thing to do? And besides that COVID just exposed issues more deeply and showed the cracks in the system, to be honest.

So it’s about being alone and feeling alone in at workplace at times, because there’s so less as a human connection. We’re just going there working with all those PPE things. And the general struggles about being a mum, being a doctor, managing everything.

Katherine: Homeschooling.

Nazia: Oh, that said, Yeah.

Rachel: What a joy that is. You were saying, do you think there’s any sort of gender specific things that women have struggled with doing COVID? And you said, actually,you’ve noticed that guys are struggling an awful lot. And actually you run a counseling service, and the referrals have been higher from the men actually, at the moment.

Nazia: During COVID time, one of the companies called Frontline Counselling, they offered free counseling services to our members. And we extended this to the COVID Group, which includes men as well. And yeah, there was more. So men were more kind of like asking for help as compared to a woman. So yeah, that’s…

But what I realised is in the COVID Group, that a woman, they talk about their issues much more than men. Men don’t talk about their issues, they keep it to themselves. So I think that might be one of the reasons why…

Katherine: Maybe we’re more used to being more open. And again, it’s what you’re saying about it almost like exposing the cracks, COVID. And actually, maybe men have just sort of gone along and dealt with not having to express their fears and worries and vulnerability. But actually COVID has come along, and suddenly they’re dealing with lots of other stuff.

And I think there’s something about having the kids at home as well. Although a lot of it will land on women shoulders, it’s men who have also had to step up in some cases, well, where they may not have done before.

Nazia: Yes, that’s great. I mean, with COVID, I mean, accept it or not, but we were dealing with something which no one knows about. We have no clue what we were dealing with. And we all were scared. We were scared for our lives. We were scared for our future. And as human beings, men and women were equally affected except that we have the forum, we knew how to talk about it. We did talk about it. But men did struggle.

And I could see in the start, they would not talk about it. They would be like, ‘Oh, well, why are we talking about these things’? And slowly over the years, I’ve seen they have opened up, they are talking about the issues they are talking about—they are talking why they don’t agree to things. And I think this open discussion was so important, which has now started in the COVID. group. So that’s, that’s very, very interesting.

Rachel: Great, well, I think it’s time to end up and I know we have to go really soon. So can I just get from each of you your top three tips about how to increase your connection, your kindness and your support in your lives? Obviously, number one tip is join PMG UK if you can. Or a similar group, if you can, if you like being online. But what some—Katherine what tips would you have?

Katherine: I think there’s something about treating others how you want to be treated, and not just waiting around. And I suppose something about not being the victim as well, ‘Why is nobody talking to me? Why is nobody being nice to me? Why is nobody brought me a cup of tea’? ‘Well, how about if I make that cup of tea first and reach out to somebody’, and just… And certainly, when you’re in a leadership role as well, it’s really important to make those connections with every single person in the team. Everybody—everybody has a part to play from chief exec down to every single member of staff. And I think there’s something really important about that. And as I say that the overwhelming thing about being kind as well be kind and listen, as well. Listen.

Rachel: Thank you. Naz, what about you?

Nazia: My top tip would be just share your vulnerability with people around you, connect with people, and you cannot do it alone. Sometimes it’s important to connect and speak about your issues. Don’t keep it to yourself; talk about it.

Rachel: Brilliant. Thank you. Thank you so much, both of you for being on. It’s an absolute joy and delight. And just thank you for all the hard work as well you do in administering that group. I know it takes a lot of time and energy and effort and you do a lot, a lot of support behind the scenes for people. So thank you so much.

People wanted to reach your contact to you. How can they find you? Katherine, where can we get you?

Katherine: I’m not on twitter at the moment because I’m having a digital detox, but it won’t last.

Rachel: The posting links up for you in case you ever do decide to go back.

Katherine: You never know. Yeah.

Rachel: And what about you, Naz?

Nazia: If you want to reach me just join PMG UK and join the COVID group if you are male, or you don’t have a family, we are there. We are there to support you.

Rachel: Great. And we’ll post both links on there so you can access them. So thank you both so much. And we’ll speak again soon.

Katherine and Nazia: Thank you.

Rachel: Thank you. Thanks for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. Please subscribe to my You Are Not A Frog email list and subscribe to the podcast. And if you have enjoyed it then please leave me a rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. So keep well everyone. You’re doing a great job. You got this.

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2021-03-30T11:23:40+00:00