Case Study

Gemma Currie, MBChB MRCP (diabetes and endocrinology), Clinical Lecturer ‌


1: How did you achieve your career having a work-life balance?

As I am at a relatively early stage in my career this is a work in progress!  The commitments of a full-time medical on-call rota are something I’ve become very accustomed to over the past 11 years.  In clinical training working out-with office hours is necessary to maintain round the clock patient care as well as to develop skills and experience. The birth of my daughter coincided with the start of my PhD studies and at this time work-life balance became much more of a priority.  Organisation and advance planning are key to both work and family life – I never go anywhere without my diary!  Working on a project I am enthusiastic about means that I can be focussed, enjoy the day’s activities and probably be more productive as a result.  It can be tempting to rush things both at work and home during a busy period, but I try to remind myself to take my time in both environments – the end result will always be of a higher standard in the office, and children grow up so quickly that time with them is precious.  I have learned to be realistic about goals and project timelines and to ask for help when I need it, whether it is from family, clinical or academic supervisors or colleagues. 

2: Have you found it difficult to share your attention between work and personal life?

I think this is something everyone struggles with no matter what field they work in.  Smartphones mean that the email is never far away!  I would say that academic work offers a good degree of flexibility – the ability to work remotely is a bonus and something that makes scheduling family and work commitments easier.  

3: Did your mentors or supervisors have a good understanding about the work-life balance in order to help you to find the best way to have success in your career and personal life?

I have been lucky to work with supervisors and colleagues who acknowledge my family arrangements which can be complex at times.  On the rare occasion that temperatures, chickenpox etc. have kept me at home the news has been met with understanding and offers of help with covering any scheduled study patient visits or clinical activities where possible.  If foreign travel is required I am always informed well in advance of the event in order to facilitate childcare. 

4:  How do you organize annual leave in order to have the best moments with your family, but also keeping the work progressing?

My annual leave is usually dictated by NHS activities.  I try to book my holidays at the start of the year which allows plenty time for forward-planning of research work, and to keep a few days in reserve for unforeseen events which may crop up.  Working within a team allows us to cross-cover each other’s research study visits from time to time, meaning that you can relax and switch the out-of-office on during leave rather than worrying about the project grinding to a halt in your absence. 

5:  Could you pass on some advice for young career researchers regarding the best balance to have a healthy personal life and achieve success in their careers.

Although nearing the end of my clinical training I consider myself to be at an early stage in the academic arena and a successful career is something I have yet to achieve!  Discuss goals with your mentor/supervisor right from the beginning and listen to their advice, they have been through it all before you and succeeded.  Be realistic in what you take on – it’s far more satisfying to see a project through to its completion, get the data analysed, written up and published than attempting to juggle too many plans simultaneously and finish nothing.