Expand your mind
December 13, 2022
Why we need to talk about "revolving door syndrome" with Dr Nina Su

Dr Nina Su is a paediatric and emergency junior doctor in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Working within healthcare systems which increasingly felt "like a revolving door" inspired Nina to create her podcast "Revolving Door Syndrome"

"We make patients a bit better, only to send them back to the environment that made them sick in the first place," explained Nina.

"Healthcare, education and justice systems are intricately connected and it's only by breaking down these silos that we can begin to form more effective policies and positive change."

Revolving Door Syndrome podcast brings you engaging dialogue from people who work in or have experienced these systems focussing on systemic issues and potential solutions to inequities for vulnerable groups.

We caught up with Nina to find out a bit more about what inspired her podcast and the ground she has managed to break so far.

Listen to Revolving Door Syndrome:

Early life

From a young age Nina knew that she wanted to follow a career path where she could help people.

"I remember in high school when a past student became a nurse on the Mercy Ships and I thought 'wow, I could really help someone through healthcare like that one day."

It was this driving force that led her into a career in medicine. "It's very cliche, I know, but I have always wanted to help people. Striving for equity and bringing up the most vulnerable people has always been a core driver for my work." 

Now, she has found her passion in paediatrics. "I love working with children because I love seeing how they see the world with such wonder. Admittedly I also have a strong affection for emergency care because I enjoy the wide spectrum of patients and types of illness I get to see and treat."

The Revolving Door Syndrome podcast

Working in emergency medicine, Nina sees patients "at their most vulnerable." "It becomes so easy to see the issues people have in accessing health and the impact of poor social supports has on their health outcomes, explained Nina.

Nina would go home and express her frustration at the issues she was seeing, both in healthcare and wider society, to her partner. He suggested the she harness this energy into a podcast to "drive these difficult conversations and make some change."

Revolving Door Syndrome is named for Nina's feeling of futility of treating patients' illnesses only for them to become sick again due to our unhealthy environments.

"The podcast allows us to try and address issues at the root cause. If we are able to show people what the issues are straight from the people who need the help, perhaps we can come up with some better understanding and more effective solutions," Nina explained.

One of the most meaningful interviews for Nina was with Cherie Kurarangi. Cherie is a wahine from Hawke's Bay and is a member of a women-only chapter of the Mongrel Mob.

"I saw a short interview with her on the news a few months ago talking about the work she is doing to help vulnerable gang-affiliated families and I thought, I have to talk to this woman. Cherie is a bridge between the gang-community and health and social services. She works so hard to get better outcomes for gang whanau because we know that gang affiliated whanau have worse health, education and justice outcomes in every measure. She shared some harrowing stories of her own upbringing being shipped around 17 different foster homes before she turned 18, of women who have been sexually assaulted but don't feel safe to access emergency care because they're labelled as gang affiliated. She uses her trauma and experiences to try to break the cycle for others. I learned that the founders of many of the gangs in New Zealand were products of state care and I think we should all really ask ourselves what was it in state care that made people  behave in such destructive ways. At the end of the day, people join gangs for a sense of whanau and belonging when they don't feel accepted in society. If we are concerned with gang-related violence, crime, and incarceration, we all have a role in fixing this. "

Nina's listeners say that as a result of this podcast they feel more inspired to speak out about these wider societal issues.

"A lot of them are already somewhat aware of these issues at a surface level but by hearing about these stories first-hand from people wanting to share their experiences, it becomes easier to see people as more than a statistic."

Nina believes her podcast will be important for the medical industry as well: "A lot of medical training inadvertently dehumanises people and still encourages a paternalistic relationship. My fellow junior doctors are seeing that health is much more than the narrow aspects of treating diseases and it's our duty to look at what we can do to start being the ambulance at the top of the cliff."

What's coming up for Nina in 2023

"My favourite part of this podcast journey is catching up with old friends as well as getting to meet new people I wouldn't have met otherwise!

I'm excited to hear from Dr Ari Chuang about how his transition is going and to catch up with Mike King about the huge response kiwis have had to fundraising for Gumboot Friday. I'm also excited to bring my audience interesting conversations about how neurodiversity and people with disabilities bring value to businesses and healthcare. I'm looking forward to speaking with Dr Carmen Basu about the importance of the first 1,000 days of life and our impatience for change in the public health system. I feel Like Revolving Door Syndrome is just getting started!"

Article by
Dr Nina Su

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