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AMA (WA) | Dr Celine Baber

Old tale of “90% boredom and 10% terror” incorrect

Tuesday December 1, 2020

Dr Celine Baber - AMA (WA) Councillor & Consultant Anaesthetist

Meet the AMA (WA) Councillor: Dr Celine Baber tells us why she chose Anaesthesia as her specialty and about her interest in teaching and clinician welfare.

Q. What makes you return to AMA (WA) Council meetings?

CB: The AMA (WA) Council meetings are made up of a large group of fascinating minds. The experience and knowledge are phenomenal and it’s rewarding being part of a passionate group like this. The meetings are concentrated and effective, meaning much is achieved in a relatively short amount of time.

Q. Why did you choose to specialise in Anaesthesia?

CB: Anaesthesia had many reasons that attracted me to it. Initially, there were many people within the specialty that had lives where they enjoyed their job but also had a level of work-life balance. The job itself is extremely interesting and diverse, yet full of modest physicians who get enough satisfaction by just doing their job well. The old tale of “90 per cent boredom and 10 per cent terror” is totally incorrect. I am rarely bored in my job. I enjoy caring for one patient at a time and doing that well. There are many practical skills and procedures in my day-to-day practice, along with a deep understanding of physiology and pharmacology that we manipulate daily.

Q. Any career highlights so far, of which you are particularly proud?

CB: A particular highlight has been becoming a primary examiner for our Australasian College. This is both challenging and rewarding. The other primary examiners around the country are a group of clever people with so many different  interests that there is never a dull moment whilst in conversation with them. I am also slowly completing a Masters in Bioethics. I was not sure what it would involve exactly but it has been a thought-provoking subject to bury oneself in.

Q. You have a professional interest in medical teaching as an examiner. How did this come about?

CB: I have always had an interest in teaching, be it students, registrars, midwives or other health professionals. The public hospital that I work at has had many primary examiners over the years, including previous and current Head Examiners, which inspired me to apply. Being an examiner for our college is not just about the exams. A large amount of analysis and work goes on behind the scenes. There is no obligation, but most examiners have an interest in teaching registrars who are sitting the exams.

Q. You also have an interest in clinician welfare and ensuring compliance with WorkSafe standards. In hindsight, do you believe WA healthcare workers’ concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE) over the past few months have been appropriately considered?

CB: The healthcare workers’ concerns in WA were not just solely about the PPE. I was in contact with many people around the State who not only had limited access to PPE, but who had not been given adequate training or education or fitting of their PPE. Healthcare workers felt an understandable obligation to support the community in the pandemic, but sometimes felt exposed or inadequately protected if COVID-19 were to hit their workplace. There are people within the State’s response to the pandemic who have taken the concerns of the frontline healthcare workers within hospitals into consideration and have acted on these concerns. The transparency around the availability and supplies of PPE improved, and the recent announcement of fit-testing at-risk workers to the protective masks is appreciated. There is still work to do though. The distance between what is happening at a management level and at the front line can be quite large in certain centres. There has been no formal involvement of the occupational health physicians in the plans to provide safety and protection to healthcare workers. Hospitals are not physically set up for social distancing and the protection of staff.

Q. Your advice to young doctors looking to specialise in Anaesthesia…

CB: Do it! The Anaesthesia training scheme is difficult to get on to, and the training can be arduous at times, but Anaesthesia is a great specialty. It is filled with many remarkable colleagues and the job can take you in many directions.

Q. If you weren’t a doctor, you would be…

CB: A geek with no job. I really don’t know. I love my job and it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.

Q. Your go-to activity to unwind after work…

CB: Going to the beach with the kids, going for a run or a swim, or watering my temperamental avocado tree.