Philip Yeoh is a consultant nurse in endocrinology at The London Clinic. He set up the hospital’s endocrinology service about 21 years ago, and now also manages the diabetes team.
Tell us about your career path so far
I have been a consultant nurse in endocrinology at The London Clinic for eight years. I’m part of a multidisciplinary team, which works closely with our consultants who specialise in endocrinology and diabetes. The London Clinic is the UK’s largest independent charitable hospital, with over 170 beds and 10 theatres. The hospital has been situated in London’s Harley Street area for 90 years, and we treat patients with a wide variety of complex health conditions.
Prior to my role at The London Clinic, I was an endocrine research charge nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. After I qualified, I worked in neurology and neurosurgery for 10 years.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The best thing has been seeing progress in endocrine nursing over the years.When I first started as an endocrine nurse, there weren’t many resources, career pathway options or academic opportunities for us. I was actually only the second consultant nurse in endocrinology in the UK when I first took on this role.
Now, the need for endocrine nursing is expressed more vocally. We’re gaining better recognition and our voices are being heard. Endocrine nursing also brings different paradigms and perspectives into endocrinology, especially for those caring for people with rare, complex and challenging conditions.
There are more of us, and we’re not just working in quantitative research. We’re bringing qualitative insights and perspectives to enrich the understanding of endocrinology as a whole.
How did you become interested in endocrinology?
When I worked in neurosurgery, we were doing four transsphenoidal hypophysectomies (TSS) a week, over the course of five to six years. I was fascinated by the endocrine sequelae following a TSS. After I finished my MSc in neurorehabilitation, I looked for a research position and luckily found one at the Endocrine Unit at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. This career-changing opportunity opened the doors to endocrinology for me.
Today, I find endocrinology so diverse and interesting. There are many subcategories of the specialty to work in, and so much to learn.
What have been your biggest career challenges?
When I worked in neurosurgery, I had very little understanding of endocrinology, and decided I wanted to know more about it. This led to my decision to pursue a career in the discipline. It was a shock, moving from an inpatient-based neurosurgery unit to the mainly outpatient-based St Bartholomew’s Endocrine Research Centre. I had to acquire new skills, knowledge and understanding.
The next phase of the challenge was when I was invited to set up a new endocrine service at The London Clinic, back in 2001. At that time, there were hardly any independent endocrine units around, so I had to build it from scratch, by borrowing what I had observed and learned. This involved first finding a physical space within The London Clinic, and then working with a project team and architect to decide our unit’s specification.
Initially, the team consisted of just me, four consultants and a secretary. Gradually, we attracted more endocrine and diabetes consultants and nurses. Now the unit has a team of six endocrine and diabetes nurses, plus a team of endocrine and diabetes consultants.
The main thing I have learned over the years is to work closely with your team. Once the team is strong, efficient and effective, then branch out. It is only through increased referrals and workloads that you start to gain more confidence, experience and expertise in your clinical work.
My career journey has also included volunteering for various endocrine societies, to support the development of endocrinology. For instance, I was an early committee member of the European Society of Endocrinology (ESE) from 2010 to 2017. Today, ESE has a strong presence of endocrine nurses.
It was challenging to get started in the beginning, but it’s been rewarding to pave the way for future endocrine nurses to take the baton and build on the progress that has been made.
Who were your mentors and how have they helped you?
My mentors at the beginning were Professors Michael Besser, John Monson, Pierre Bouloux, Shern Chew and Ashley Grossman. I also worked with Professor Márta Korbonits on her research projects in the early days.
They were kind, patient and generous, and they opened the doors for me in endocrinology. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
I have a different mentorship team now, but the main drive continues to be working together to find ways to improve the diagnosis, management and outcomes of endocrine patients.
Do you enjoy being a mentor for early career nurses?
I have mentored several nurses early in their careers, both in our department and in the wider endocrine nursing community. One thing I have learned is to be kind, patient, generous and supportive of your early career nurses, and encourage them to take time to learn and develop.
My advice to those mentoring others is to remind people that endocrinology is a complex area and that a mentee may initially find that a lot of information flies over their head! They need time to absorb the skills and knowledge, so it’s important that they’re supported during their journey.
What do you like most about your work?
I enjoy working closely with my current team and, most importantly, with our patients. They bring different dimensions to our clinical work and it is very important that their voices are heard.
I also enjoy working with patient support groups, particularly with the Addison’s Disease Self-Help Group, where I was a trustee from 2016 to 2019. I network closely with the Society for Endocrinology, particularly the Nurse Committee and working groups. I find these activities rewarding.
Finally, I am currently the President-Elect of the Federation of International Nurses in Endocrinology, a cohesive group of endocrine nurses who work closely with the International Society of Endocrinology to support the development of endocrine nursing around the globe. We hosted a session for nurses during the virtual International Congress of Endocrinology 2022 in August.
What advice would you give new endocrine nurses?
Build a sound, knowledgeable and highly skilled foundation in endocrine nursing. Then, put yourself forward for work with endocrinology societies, communities and working groups.
Be kind, generous, patient and supportive to others and yourself. If you have the energy, share your time with various national or international endocrine societies. The main thing is to enjoy your work and create a great rapport with your team – precious and wonderful moments at work don’t last forever, so it is important to make the most of those.