Case study

Consultant forensic psychiatrist — Matthew

Matthew enjoys working to improve the lives of his patients. Find out more about the rewards and challenges of working in forensic psychiatry

How did you get your job as a psychiatrist?

The training process to become a psychiatrist is rigorous, and rightly so.

Once I'd passed all the necessary training (medical degree, two-year Foundation Training, six years of training in psychiatry), I applied for a consultant position at the trust where I'd completed my training.

What's a typical day like?

I could spend a morning conducting a clinic in a prison, which varies from maximum security to a local remand prison, and then I may have management meetings in the afternoon where we plan admissions to the hospital.

On another day I may be conducting a ward round where we discuss the patients' progress and consider how their care team can best support them towards discharge. The next day I might conduct an assessment to see whether a person requires hospital admission or I could teach medical students on aspects of psychiatry.

This is what's fantastic about the job. There is no chance of getting bored.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love the variety and working with a section of society that is often overlooked and undervalued. I hope to offer some hope and support to this group when they are most in need, and strive to facilitate their transition back into society to live healthy, violence-free and successful lives.

What are the challenges?

Although it's a privilege supporting such a marginalised group, it can be challenging, particularly in prison. On occasion, anger and frustration can be directed towards you and, more so than in other settings, there are multiple reasons for prisoners seeking out your help.

More generally, there are lots of societal barriers to providing the level of care and support that one would ideally like, but this also provides opportunities to go the extra mile for your patients.

Did you want to go into psychiatry when you started your degree?

No. But then I didn't know what I wanted to do. I enjoyed my psychiatry rotation but wasn't sure I was the 'right type of person'. I quickly learnt that the right type of person was simply one who was interested in, and compassionate towards, fellow members of our society and had a genuine drive to improve the lives of others.

I undertook a psychiatry rotation in older adult psychiatry in my Foundation Year 2 and felt at home. I knew immediately this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and applied for core training. I haven't looked back since.

How has your role developed?

My role has changed with seniority. I've been given increasing amounts of responsibility up to the position I now find myself in, where I have significant autonomy and act as the responsible clinician to a number of patients.

My ambitions simply are to continue to improve the lives of others. Where possible I'd like to engage further with the criminal justice system to improve its practices relating to mental health.

What advice can you give to others?

Psychiatry involves medicine, the law, sociology, psychology, philosophy and much more. Take an interest in everything.

At medical school, seek out optional modules in psychiatry so you can experience those niche aspects that you may not otherwise see, such as forensic psychiatry.

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