Meet Phedra Dodds


Dr Phedra Dodds is the NHS England South-West Endoscopy Programme Nurse Lead.

What attracted you to a career in gastroenterology/endoscopy?

I've worked in gastroenterology now for about 24 years. I started as a ward nurse on a gastroenterology surgical ward where there was a fantastic professor called Wynn Lewis, who at the time was doing Whipple operations and we were very involved because at that time there was no high dependency unit. I was just amazed by the type of work he was doing and he was so thoughtful, he explained a lot and he was very excited by the speciality too. I then went to work in endoscopy and I've been in endoscopy for 23 years and there I just found this sense of community that I didn't find anywhere else in the hospital. I worked in A&E and I've worked on vascular wards but it didn't have that team approach that you seem to have in gastroenterology and endoscopy. That was fantastic because you're always working with someone and never feel alone. People are very willing to explain things and teach things and there are careers that you can develop into and it felt like a dynamic place. The thing about endoscopy that I loved is that you can see it all there on the screen. If it's polyp, it looks like polyp, if it's inflammation, it looks like inflammation. So visualisation was really important for me to connect with the speciality.

What advancement in gastroenterology/endoscopy are you most excited about and why?

In the last couple of years, there has been a real push for everyone to receive education and training in endoscopy. For a while, it was all about training the endoscopists and I was an endoscopist for 20 years and I benefited from all the work that JAG and the BSG did to make sure that there was standardised education for endoscopists. Because of that, the quality of endoscopy and the safety of endoscopy for patients has improved no end but up until the last five years or so, there wasn't really much out there for the whole of the endoscopy workforce and 80% of the workforce are not endoscopists. It's nurses, healthcare support workers, practice educators, and managers. I think we are at a stage now where everyone is beginning to benefit from education and training and that means together as teams, we can all rise up. It's not just some people doing really exciting things, it's actually that everyone has training opportunities now. That is what I'm most excited about because I think now we can really push the boundaries way beyond just having a few people trained and educated, we can really go for it now.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

After 20 years as an endoscopist, I hung up my scope and now I work on my passion, which is education and training and endoscopy. I do this full time now and that is so amazing because for me, what I love most about my work is seeing people grow and seeing people being developed. I myself had a brilliant mentor called Professor John Williams. He was absolutely pivotal in my life and my career and he was so generous and kind in giving me loads of opportunities and now in my work, I am so excited to do that for other people and to see them achieve their goals, their aims, their dreams, getting new jobs, pushing the boundaries, and just seeing the next generation of endoscopy nurses and endoscopy staff going further more than we ever could at that time.

What is the one thing you would change?

The one thing that I would change is that I believe that everyone in endoscopy and gastroenterology should have career frameworks and pathways that they can go on and it can lead them to an exciting career and I don't think we are quite there yet. So the one thing that I would really like to change is for everyone to have an exciting dynamic career pathway to keep them within endoscopy and gastroenterology. I don't believe that the best of the best should have to step out of the speciality and go into things like general management and executive positions, which aren't anything to do with the speciality. I would like to see people have lifelong careers within the speciality.

What's the best advice you've been given in your career?

The best advice was given to me by Professor John Williams and he said to me to keep curious, so just keep exploring and keep adventuring in the speciality. Keep asking why, wondering whether we could do things and just to push the boundaries.

What does being a BSG member mean to you?

It means an awful lot actually and it's that sense of community we have got. I've got colleagues and friends and I've had experiences that I never would have had without the BSG. The conferences mean we can all come together and share the difficulties but also share the fun as well and we can provide that peer support to each other. I've travelled the world with the BSG, teaching in different countries too and without the BSG International Committee that would never have happened.

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