Award winning Sheffield psychiatrist explains her teamwork mindset
Dr Victoria Khromova is a typical Sheffield student story. Came here, studied here, loved it here and still lives here 11 years later.
That’s where the typical ends.
She has just been crowned Psychiatrist of the Year by the private hospital she works for on East Bank Road and runs her own business called Emerging Parent, an online education and coaching service for parents.
Her early years of being born in Russia and going to school in Africa add to her remarkable mix – one she is happy to keep in Sheffield. “Like they say, you never leave,” says Victoria, smiling broadly in her Killamarsh home.
"I came to medical school here because I wanted to be out of London and into the countryside. Sheffield has a big medical school and one of the highest retention rates of students. I’m one of them, I never really moved away.
"Those green fields as you come over from Manchester Airport got me. Sheffield has got everything. When I wanted the city centre there was loads there and now I’ve got a family we’re a bit more rural but close enough.”
The 39-year-old is married to Bill, who she met during her student years in Sheffield, and the couple have a daughter Karina, nine. Victoria spent five years studying at the medical school of Sheffield University and then did two years as a junior doctor, working in Chesterfield and Sheffield. She chose to specialise in psychiatry, starting with all age ranges and after three years opting for child psychiatry.
"I always felt the earlier you got to people, the better your chances were of changing their trajectory.
"So many adults when they speak about their childhood maybe wouldn’t be adults on adult ward if they had been helped."
She works for Cygnet Hospital Sheffield which offers a low secure service for women and Child Adoloscent Mental Health Services for male and female adolescents over three distinct wards.
Cygnet is a private firm and its city base looks after NHS patients from across Yorkshire, sometimes further afield. It has 55 beds and Victoria works on Pegasus ward, which has 13 of the beds.
Her Psychiatrist of the Year award came from Cygnet after she was nominated by colleagues. She was delighted. "Awards are often for academic achievement, it’s not often you get an award for clinical care. This was also about teamwork because the team nominate you.
"I was surprised to win, but I really enjoy my work, it doesn’t feel like hard work and it was nice to win for something you enjoy doing.
"On my own, I would be pretty useless. I work with the team, my job is to make sure the team does what they need to do, I’ll do the thinking but the team does the doing. Without them, I couldn’t do the work I do.
"The staff deal with such complex issues. My area of expertise is narrow, so the team gives me support. We see 13 to 18-year-olds who have had no psychiatric illness before and it is scary for parents.
"A young person can have been doing well, managing fine, then suddenly present bizarre behaviour where they want to kill their parents or harm them.
"People stop eating because they are scared they’re going to get poisoned. It can come out of the blue but means when they are at home they can be a risk to themselves.
"It is fantastic to look after them, find the cause, what triggered it so we can avoid those triggers again and get the right treatment.
“There’s a four-week period where we treat people but also get to the bottom of the illness and what’s making it worse and really dig deep so we can say to the community teams that we have done a thorough assessment.
"They often come here having never been to a service who want to harm themselves or commit suicide. If they have been to a service, they may have slipped through the net, but with us we have all the professionals and can check for autism and ADHD.
"Secondary school is so tough, things can go wrong. We are providers for Yorkshire, but there is a massive shortage of beds so we do get national cases.”
Covid added to the caseload. “The lack of routine was a huge challenge. So many who came to see us, in their assessment, something from covid was usually there. School had been supportive, but suddenly they couldn’t go. Maybe an extra curricular activity went or they weren’t able to see friends or someone they knew died from covid. Something from covid was always there.
"What was really hard was young people had an understanding of how the world worked, but so many of those things changed, it was shocking and made them feel uncertain about what was coming.”
She was praised by the award judges for going above and beyond to ensure that young people received the highest quality care during their treatment in the hospital and also post-discharge.
"I really enjoy doing the work and understanding people’s difficulties, supporting them and changing things. I do a lot of advocacy so they get access to services when they are discharged from here.”
The hospital also takes referrals who have been refused by services. “We work closely with them and sometimes they feel unable to return home. That’s a difficult challenge, but we don’t turn them away, there’s a lot of things we can do in-house which is really rewarding. What is hard is when you have to argue about that with the next place they are going to, I need to advocate on their behalf.”
It works as recognised by the Cygnet Consultant Psychiatrist of the Year award, which is given to a consultant who has demonstrated advanced clinical skills as well as demonstrating a positive image of psychiatry, excelling in service development and leading as a positive role model.
When she was presented with it, Dr Jon Van Niekerk, Group Clinical Director, Cygnet Health Care, said: “Every service user under Dr Khromova receives an exceptional level of care, Her colleagues describe her as a humble leader who always supports the young people in her care, no matter how complex the issues they face and even when they have been declined by many other services.
“Dr Khromova also devotes her time to supporting parents to help them understand the needs of their children and provide them with strategies to use at home. The service she has helped to develop on the general adolescent unit in particular at Cygnet Hospital Sheffield has allowed the team to provide an excellent wrap around service for young people.”
They also get support from the community on East Bank Road. “The shops around us are aware of what we do and we have their support. They let us know what’s going on in a helpful way and we don’t get anything negative from them.”
So what about the post covid world? “School has started in a more full-on way than during lockdown, exams are back and for children and adoloscents who were home schooling, you can imagine how tricky going back will be. That’s the challenge and when exams come, those age groups are going to find that difficult.”
Her own business Emerging Parent was set up prior to the pandemic and she now works for it for two and a half days a week. The website suggests an easy going approach as she greets readers with the message: “Hi I’m Victoria - I’m a child and adolescent psychiatry consultant, parent coach and I am also a mum.
“I spend my clinical days figuring out what has happened in the life of the children and families I work with so that we can find a way of turning things around. And parents are often the biggest part of that change.
“That’s why I love to support parents, because once they know what’s going on and what they need to do they are the ones who can make a huge difference.”
And what was going on in the pandemic was a rise in cases of anxiety.
"Parents struggled with their mental health and there were a lot of anxiety cases – they went through the roof for young people and parents, so many requests were to talk about anxiety.”
She offers online workshops and one-to-one sessions which can be found on her website https://www.emergingparent.com/ Back at the day job, she is keen to promote Cygnet’s recruitment open day on Tuesday, October 12 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, on Victoria Station Road, Sheffield city centre, from 10am – 4pm. That’s because she wants people to join the team.
After receiving the award at the Cygnet Annual Psychiatrists Conference and National Awards 2021, she said: “I feel that this is a win for the Pegasus Ward team – the work I do would not be possible without the amazing dedication of the nurses, support workers and the Multi-Disciplinary Team who work alongside me and make it possible for us to deliver high quality, individualised care for our patients.”
Which proves it’s good to be a team player, a typically sound Sheffield quality.