Clare Summerfield

Who heals the healer?

Junior Doctors today are suffering high rates of burn out and negative mental health. This spotlights a cohort within a professional group already known to have the highest suicide rate and who paradoxically, have the poorest access to mental health support. We know that the health and well-being of our doctors is directly linked to a reduction in medical errors, good quality patient outcomes and satisfaction. Crucially, poor health leads to low staff retention, contributing to the biggest crisis facing the NHS today – workforce attrition. 

Stigma and shame hinders clinicians from seeking support and when they do, their only option is to access help from their own medical colleagues. A culture of blame and ‘resilience’ at all cost means many doctors suffer in silence and asking for help can be the hardest words to find. How can we support Junior Doctors to prevent them becoming unwell?, Based on Qualitative Research, Co-design Workshops and Quantitative User Testing with Junior Doctors, this research presents The Junior Doctor Circle, an app specifically designed for Junior Doctors to share their stories and begin a conversation about their mental health privately with their professional peers. 


Download Executive Summary

Download Design Research Thesis

Degree Details

School of Design

Clare gained a first class BA(Hons) in Graphic Design at the University of Kingston and was awarded a prize for Information Design. She has also studied Design in Oslo as an Erasmus Scholar and worked as a Graphic Designer at MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Recently Clare was a designer at Holmes Wood, a global design practice designing for people and place. She also designs co-design workshops and has experience as a workshop facilitator bringing design to other industry sectors to solve complex challenges. During her time at the RCA, Clare has worked with British Airways and the Saatchi Gallery to celebrate 100 years of flying with an exhibition entitled, BA2119: Flight of the Future. 

The Junior Doctor Circle Key Features

The Junior Doctor Circle Key Features

The Junior Doctor Circle Key Features

The Junior Doctor Circle Key Features

Support Throughout a Clinical Career

Thematic Analysis of Insights

Personas, Hypotheses and Opportunity Areas

Mapping the Research Process. Map of the Research Journey and Framework of Thesis

Who Heals the Healer? A Practice Based Design Research Thesis
Launch Project

Who Heals the Healer? A Practice Based Design Research Thesis

Who heals the healer?
How might we equip and support Junior Doctors to start conversations about their mental health and not feel alone?

A Practice Based Design Research Project in collaboration with Junior and Senior Doctors from Imperial College NHS Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust to empower Junior Doctors to track,
vocalise and feel supported in their mental health

The Junior Doctor Circle is an app for Junior Doctors to share their stories with a community of other Junior Doctors. No one using the app can be identified and the app is not affiliated in any way to your employer. By realising you are not alone you learn and also support others.

This research advocates the need for ongoing, active mental health support for Junior Doctors to acknowledge, track and be signposted to support services before they present with serious mental health issues. We should aim to support doctors before they burn out or are forced to take sick leave. The NHS has set out its intention to become a disease prevention service, rather than a disease intervention service. Mental health support for Doctors must mirror this. We must appreciate that by supporting doctors’ physical and mental well-being that we are strengthening the very backbone of the NHS.

Self-generating content and peer to peer support ensures that The Junior Doctor Circle is unique amongst current mental health support services for doctors. By ensuring Junior Doctors voices are the building blocks of the platform, the content and support it offers is self-sustaining and can be simultaneously curated and tailored for and by Junior Doctors. An online community gives Juniors the space to take a first step to track and understand their mental health and well-being privately, without fear of judgement. By designing into the platform varying levels of user engagement, this platform can be both a gateway to other support services or a haven to connect and begin much needed conversations.

Doctors have one of the highest suicide rates amongst professional groups. Paradoxically, they have some of the poorest access to mental health services. Many are left to suffer in silence. In 2018-2019 over 3,000,000 full time days were reported as lost to mental health related sick leave (Copeland, 2019). The real figure will be higher, yet stigma and shame conceal the true mental health toll. This costs the NHS millions and exacerbates pressures on the remaining workforce. Junior Doctors carry for the largest burden of mental heath issues and suffer from high burnout rates and low retention rates. They make a significant contribution to the biggest crisis facing the NHS today – the mental well-being of its workforce.
Information Design
Junior Doctors
Mental Health
Royal College of Art
Registered Office: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2EU
RCA™ Royal College of Art™ are trademarks of the Royal College of Art