An interview with Dr Ranj
Ranj Singh is a paediatrician who presents the children’s television programme Get Well Soon
Ranj Singh is a singing, dancing doctor who presents the BBC children’s (CBeebies) television programme Get Well Soon. He’s a paediatrician who came into “media medicine” by chance, and hopes to use his talents to promote public health through writing and television. Working in the media has its pressures, he says, but it also offers a useful creative outlet alongside clinical medicine.
Why did you choose paediatrics?
I had a tough first year of work as a pre-registration house officer [foundation year 1 doctor], and was considering leaving medicine altogether. The learning curve from being a medical student was so steep—the workload and responsibility were immense. I’m not sure I was entirely prepared. I didn’t like how older patients often floundered in hospital, purely because they had nowhere suitable to go. I didn’t feel that I was doing the best job I could, but my hands were tied, most often owing to a shortage of services and placements in the community.
I took some time out and applied for a paediatric post on an off chance. In that role, I felt valued and that I was making a difference. Most of my patients got better, and even if they didn’t, we could make a real difference to their quality of life. Those working in paediatrics seemed to be more willing to pull out all the stops for their patients, and that was the reason I had chosen to go into medicine.
What are the pros and cons of working in paediatrics?
You can make such a big difference to the life of a child and their family, and you can see the positive impact this has. It’s also an exciting field in terms of the medicine and treatments—you are constantly learning, the treatments are cutting edge, and you are kept on your toes. One day you could be treating a teenager with meningococcal sepsis, the next you could be dealing with premature triplets. The people I work with are dedicated, interesting, and, above all, fun. You need to appreciate what it is to be a child if you are going to work with one, and being able to have fun is a big part of that.
However, paediatric emergency medicine is exhausting, both emotionally and physically. The resources are often scarce—it’s not unusual to be short staffed for the rota and to run out of beds in the hospital, so you need to be resourceful. That means the pressure is always high. It’s not a career for the faint hearted.
How did your media career come about?
After several years in clinical medicine I needed a different and creative outlet, and an opportunity came up to work with the BBC. Over time, my name got passed around, I got involved in more projects, and suddenly I was being asked to audition for on-screen roles. I came up with an idea for a children’s television show (CBeebies’ Get Well Soon), and that’s when things took off.
I’m now a television presenter for various shows on the BBC, ITV, and Channel 5. I’ve written two children’s school books and I write for magazines and websites. I am also an ambassador for several charities.
Working in the media has given me an insight into public health, science communication, and working in different teams under different types of pressure. I have been able to use my clinical skills and training in a completely different way—in health promotion for the public and to make things better for children, young people, and families. It has also been good fun.
There isn’t a set path to get into “media medicine.” There’s no training programme or feedback to work out if you’re doing it right. It requires a lot of hard work (often for no return), and taking opportunities as they come up. You need to learn to take rejection and develop a thick skin—there are no guarantees in the media. That’s why establishing yourself clinically first is so important, both for job security and to give you credibility.
What are your ambitions?
My hope is to obtain my Certificate of Completion of Training soon and to get a consultant post in a paediatric emergency department; then I can flex the skills and knowledge I have gained during training. Alongside, I hope to continue my media role, as it could be of benefit to the NHS—I firmly believe that good health promotion can have a massive impact without huge cost.
Other than that, I wouldn’t mind a chance to have a go at Strictly Come Dancing.Niamh Brooks, technical editor, The BMJ