Case study

Consultant psychiatrist — Dr Niall Campbell

Dr Campbell specialises in addiction at The Priory Hospital, Roehampton and believes that to be a good psychiatrist you need a genuine interest in patients’ lives

How did you get your job?

I have always known that I wanted to be a doctor. From the age of 16 I did summer jobs as a nursing auxiliary in a cardiac unit in a local hospital. I enjoyed talking to the patients and felt that I had an empathy with them. I listened to their stories and realised that just talking to them was helpful.

I then went to medical school at Charing Cross Hospital and after graduation found myself lacking direction.

I did a six month senior house officer job in psychiatry at Frimley Park Hospital under a doctor from Chile. We developed a great relationship and he taught me what a good psychiatrist should be; a good diagnostician, able to listen and provide practical help and hope at a time of crisis.

The key to being a good psychiatrist is to be interested and really care about other people. You have got to be curious, empathetic and understanding

Can you describe a typical day?

My time is divided between inpatients at The Priory and outpatients, both at the hospital and in central London.

Three times a week I meet with the addiction treatment team to discuss the inpatients, their progress, problems and what interventions and discharge plans need to be made.

My outpatient work involves assessing new patients, some of whom want to deal with their addiction problem and others who may not be so keen. I have to try motivational interviewing techniques to encourage the patient to acknowledge the consequences of their addiction and the need to take action as soon as possible.

What is the most interesting part of your job?

Never knowing who's going to turn up.

I have been privileged in this job to meet people from all walks of life, from the unemployed and homeless, to the rich and successful.

I have treated people from every country in the world and from professions I have never heard of before.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

Motivating people who do not recognise the consequences of their addiction and don't want to change is a challenge.

Also working to dispel the widely held stigmas about addiction. I work with the media in trying to get this message across.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into psychiatry?

The absolute key to being a good psychiatrist is to be interested and really care about other people. You have got to be curious, empathetic and understanding.

You have got to want to be a doctor, to look at the whole person and not just see them as a number, a collection of biochemical reactions and cells, but as a living breathing organism with hopes, dreams and aspirations.

People are fascinating. How their body and mind work has got to interest you.

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