Contributor corner: Chrissie Giles

Chrissie GilesChrissie Giles studied biochemistry at the University of Leeds. Concluding that clumsiness and practical science do not mix, she completed a Master’s in science communication in 2003 and has been working as a writer and editor ever since.

Her editorial career began in a medical communications agency and, via a brief stint in the heady world of motor caravan journalism, she now writes and edits stories on biology and medicine as a Commissioning Editor on Mosaic.

Twitter: @christinagiles

What's your feature about?

Doing a job that involves helping people at all stages of their lives ­– from before birth to death – must have an impact on you. I wanted to explore how medical training attempts to prepare doctors for breaking bad news, especially around life-limiting illnesses and end-of-life, and what the responsibility of bearing such news can do to people. How do doctors care for themselves and their patients in such potentially stressful circumstances, while still getting the message across?

What did you learn in the process of reporting and writing it that you didn't expect?

One of the people I spoke to told me that student doctors are sometimes surprised that working with the dying is part of their job. I found this really shocking, but appreciate that there may be some denial in play here – dealing with death and dying must be extremely difficult, especially the first time a patient dies.

That said, most of us live with a functional denial of death. I think that we all need to be more open about discussing serious illness, dying and death. We must make sure that our relatives know our wishes and preferences, before it’s too late.

Read Chrissie’s feature in Mosaic, publishing 13 January 2015.