Dr Conor Tuffs is a junior doctor and RMBF volunteer based in Cornwall.
He joined the RMBF’s volunteer network as one of the first medical student volunteers, helping to raise our profile among his fellow students in Exeter. In 2017 he coined the title and hashtag #MedStudentsMatter for our campaign highlighting pressure on medical students. He has since qualified as a doctor and continues be a keen and active volunteer, spreading the word about the support the RMBF can offer.
For Volunteers’ Week, we asked Conor what the RMBF meant to him.
There’s no doubt that almost every person experiences stress, or some financial worry, at some point in their lives due to work. Perhaps you can remember how this feels: it can be a lonely and deeply hurtful experience. For many, this starts in university, where thousands of students take on thousands in debt, and deal with new physical and mental challenges out of their usual environments.
I would argue that in terms of stress, degrees that train doctors are among the worst offenders in the education system. Every medical student or doctor has more than a handful of stories about the experiences and hardships of our training that would deeply shock people outside the medical ‘bubble’. It’s not surprising to me that 60% of medical students reported financial difficulties during their training, with 41% considering dropping out as a result. Indeed, 68% of medical students reported significant mental health pressures. And sadly, 59% feel that the stigma of reaching out for help would stop them doing so.
It was a chance email received during my time at medical school that alerted me to the great work the RMBF does every year helping doctors, and indeed medical students, to succeed in their careers by supporting them financially and mentally. It just seemed to ‘fill the gap’ of support that I felt was needed in my cohort and peers.
It would be fair of you to ask “why this charity?”. Undoubtedly there are many worthy causes to which I could donate my time. For me, this story goes back a little further.
When I was nine years old my mother was told, in the early hours of the morning after a night spent in two different hospitals, that her son had blood cancer (leukaemia). She was told he was seriously unwell, and there was a real chance he might not survive.
As a child it took me nearly three years of treatment to realise the extent and seriousness of my illness – my mother had to make decisions about my treatment within hours. This was an illness that didn’t just affect me, but the extensive family that supported and cared for me during that time.
I could write to tell you of the interesting stories and experiences that I had during my treatment, like sneaking back across the English channel with chickenpox, thinking I’d vomited up my whole stomach and losing my vision, or scaring other children at school with my Hickman line. Or I could sit here and type a list, longer than the wordcount I’ve been given, of people who helped me and my family.
What matters is that chief among those are the medical professionals who saved my life.
So how does this link to the RMBF?
Because I and my family were supported medically and psychologically back into living a normal life, I was able to continue with school, GCSEs and A-levels. And continue to live my life pursuing the pleasures and goals that I always wanted to, resulting in training to be a doctor myself. It strikes me that the RMBF are doing almost exactly this for our working doctors and medical students, and their families.
In short – doctors supported me to not just survive, but live. If we support doctors and those in training, we’re not only supporting them and their families, but their patients, their patients’ families, and ultimately – life.
That’s why I support the RMBF.
Thank you for reading,