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Interview: Dr Ranj

The old adage of never working with animals or children appears to have been lost on passionate paediatrician and TV presenter Dr Ranj Singh, who believes with honesty, appropriate language and a splash of humour, clinicians can get even the most complex messages through to kids.

Explaining topics ranging from constipation and conjunctivitis to diabetes and hand, foot and mouth disease, Get Well Soon, CBeebies' flagship healthcare show aimed at three to six year olds is the brainchild of Dr Ranj, 33.

Hailing from Kent, Dr Ranj has had a natural affinity for working with children since he was a medical student and he uses he skills daily in his job at South London Healthcare Trust.

Although initially he was aspiring to be a GP, Dr Ranj said paediatrics just “pulled him in”.

Describing his first experience of working in paediatrics in a hospital, he said: “I felt like I was finally in my comfort zone, I felt like I was making a difference, I was working with people that are inspiring, I had patients that were fantastic...the medicine is just fascinating.” 

“I feel like I really make a difference”, he added. 

His habit for going the extra mile was what led him to creating the 30-episode show, aired daily on Cbeebies, which is set to be televised in Australia later this year.

Dr Ranj believes Get Well Soon is just an extension of the healthcare promotion that is part of any healthcare professionals' job. “There aren't many programmes in the media about children's health and that's why I wanted to do a show like this. I thought, there's a gap here and I'd love to be the person to fill it. Yes, it's fun and people might learn something from it, but I want them to take away something that they can use in day-to-day life.”

And it's never too early to start giving people positive health messages, Dr Ranj said.

“We know that children who have good strong positive messages have healthier behaviour, and likewise, children that have unhealthy messages early on tend to have lifelong problems related to that,” he said.

Learning about the body should be a habit that children get into from a young age, so they begin to see healthy living as “normal and accessible”. By using play, online resources and examples, children can relate to medical issues that might have gone over their head before, which Dr Ranj said can make a “massive difference”.

More than 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma, that's nearly one in 11. Despite the high number of sufferers, children with asthma may still feel “different”, and the most important questions in a child's head when it comes to health problems revolve around that perceived difference, according to Dr Ranj.

He said: “Explaining what their lungs are and what they do, what happens during asthma and why it's important to use medicine are the first steps towards getting a child to accept their condition and properly use treatments.

“It's about illustrating why things are important,” he insisted. “You have to create an environment that's comfortable for young people and children. You have to talk to them in a way that puts their fears at rest, talk to them on their level in a compassionate and caring way, trying to understand where they're coming from.”

Healthcare professionals can sometimes be authoritarian, in Dr Ranj's opinion, as patients come in with a problem and doctors or nurses send them out with an answer. To him, this approach doesn't work at the best of times, and least of all with teenagers.

“It's about working with them through something, and that's a longer process,” he stressed. “A lot of teenagers will not seek medical advice purely because they feel like they'll be judged, or they feel they're going to be lectured. They have to be able to access you in a way that makes them feel empowered.”

Keeping up with the times by using social media is something Dr Ranj feels particularly passionate about, and he thinks other healthcare professionals should be too. “I'm not going to talk about the latest randomised control trial in XYZ,” he laughed, “But I might tweet ten tips to give up smoking.”

On social media website Twitter, Ranj has close to 8,400 followers, although he admitted not many healthcare professionals follow him. “It's about using the media to access your patients, and also inform them. I think more and more healthcare professionals need to get involved in social media - not necessarily for consultation, but for sharing information.”

Despite the glitz of his showbiz side-job, day-to-day, Dr Ranj deals with child developmental issues - bedwetting, constipation or even psychiatric problems. Undeterred by the time pressures, the admin pressures and the challenges, he truly believes in what he calls “real-life medicine”. He said: “You see real people in real situations out in the community in their day-to-day lives, and I love that. I love the fact that I'm in touch with real people.”