A week in psychiatry with Erika Jääskeläinen
In each issue we ask one of our colleagues to write a contribution about the week at their job. Although we are all psychiatrists, our days and conditions vary a lot. It is therefore both interesting and inspiring to read what daily life is like to our colleagues. This time, Erika Jääskeläinen gladly agreed to describe her work week. This was one week of her life in November of 2022.
The week started with reading and answering emails related to research, supervision of medical students and researchers, and taking care of things relating to Finnish and Nordic psychiatric associations. Then, a nice and needed meeting with a statistician in our research group, planning upcoming analyses and tasks for her. In the next months, we will clean and analyze our clinical data on the effects of quetiapine and insomnia on mental and physical health.
The day included also quite a lot of discussions about the lack of psychiatrists in the public health sector and the difficult situation of mental health services in Finland due to the lack of resources. This is a common problem in many places in Finland and internationally. In Finland were are currently under huge change: The organization of public healthcare, social welfare, and rescue services will be reformed. The responsibility for organizing all these services is transferred from municipalities to well-being services counties from 1.1.2023 onward. The key objective of the reform is to improve the availability and quality of especially basic public services throughout Finland. Unfortunately, at the same time, there is a lack of money, so the situation is difficult. This requires active discussion between clinicians, leaders, and politicians, and we psychiatrists have to speak for the services and our patients.
As a whole, this Monday was quite peaceful and slow. A good way to start a new week after last week's traveling and conference. In the evening, in addition to working as a "taxi driver" for my older daughter, I was so happy to be able to join the dancing lesson. For me, perfect intervention for mental and physical health!
Tuesday started with a phone call about the nowadays common topic of "how will we get more psychiatrists to our health care area". Many good ideas, and hopefully we can put into practice some of these. The day included also teaching a small group of medical students. We had a meeting where I introduced them to mindfulness practices and breathing techniques as a method of handling and reducing stress. Grounding practice, diaphragmatic breathing, and affectionate breathing meditation were needed and calming. We also discussed with a research colleague about next year’s research budget. And again, handling several emails. In the evening, no hassle, just being with our younger daughter.
This day was mostly about supervision, learning, and meetings via Teams. Teams and other conference call services are here to stay and they have eased the organizing of meetings and seminars. I prefer meeting and discussing face to face, but there are many situations when Teams is just perfect. And this day was one of those. One meeting was the supervision of a medical student doing his advanced studies thesis. Another was also about the supervision of medical student's research. She had received quite nice but laborious comments from a journal, and we planned together with a co-author what to do to enhance the paper. We also got some good teaching on how to collect and analyze data for meta-analysis. The evening was spent with older daughters' activities. As a small task, I spent the late evening reviewing Ph.D. researcher's text and writing a grant application. This time not related to research, but a grant application for the funding for our daughter's dance club.
Thursday was mainly a clinical day seeing patients and giving clinical supervision. There was an appointment at the hospital, and some appointments at the private clinic where I also meet persons who have been referred from employment services because of mental health problems and long-term difficulties in occupational functioning. I feel privileged to work as a psychiatrist. This work gives lots of perspectives on human life.
I work a small part in the specialized neuromodulation unit at the Oulu University Hospital. This day, exceptionally, I did not give electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) but instead did the office work. The day was spent writing medical reports, calling patients, and planning treatment. Again, a problem is the lack of resources. We have very effective and smoothly organized treatments, such as ECT, magnetic stimulation (rTMS), and ketamin, but we do not have enough staff and money to give the treatments to all referred patients. The waiting time for rTMS is about one year…. I feel sorry for the patients and their significant others.
The rest of the day was for research: writing a letter of recommendation for a Ph.D. researcher, reviewing young scientists' texts, writing emails, and planning the upcoming weeks. The evening was mostly about recovering and getting ready for the weekend.
Unusual Saturday. This weekend our research group had a seminar in a nice house with meeting equipment, a kitchen, a sauna, and accommodation nearby. Before the start of the seminar, we did some preparation by ordering lunch for everyone and going to the grocery shop with my long-term colleague. Finally, on Saturday noon, about 20 people gathered at the house, where we had interesting presentations of young scientists' research, teaching given by senior statisticians, and a very lively discussion. The discussion was so intense that we almost missed the sauna.
The last presentations of the seminar. It was so nice and important to have a meeting like this, seeing and discussing with research colleagues after last remote working last years. New ideas were presented, and even some new research topics rose. Finally, the week ended with going to the swimming hall with the younger daughter and having a movie with her. □