The Medicine: Stay Go or Diversify event was a memento to individuality and inspiration. Back to back speakers on a cold Saturday morning described their journeys, their tribulations and their successes.
The past few years have been awash with negativity: the junior doctor contract disputes, documentaries highlighting the shortage of hospital beds to hardworking colleagues seeking the help of food banks. It is hard to imagine or remember better times. In the midst of chaos and evolving healthcare challenges, lies an opportunity to reassess and realign. Not just the NHS, but each individual person.
One example of this is Dr Nav Paul. She described how she realised dermatology was the specialty for her despite already being a registered general practitioner. How does anyone change specialties in the NHS? With great difficulty. Yet, she made the brazen move to work for a dermatology department for free. And it worked. Health had forced Nav to reassess and change direction. This rings true for many doctors, who have had to press pause due to unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes, we gain clarity when we are temporarily blown off course and snapped out of the reverie of our daily routine.
What if you are not drawn to any particular specialty? Maybe you would rather stand on the summit of mountains with 360 panoramic views, like Dr Harry Lynch, paediatric registrar and expedition medic. Do you feel empowered to help those in crisis? Then humanitarian medicine may be for you. Could you take what you love and combine it with medicine?
For others who are further along in their careers, each day can start to feel like repetition. Dissatisfaction can creep in and it might be time to consider diversifying your routine.
Dr Denning trained in medical aesthetics and is also an aesthetic trainer. She combines her private practice whilst maintaining her surgical skills, usually by filling in rota gaps that align with her schedule.
What if it is time to just leave the clinical environment altogether and set your sites on something else further afield. A popular option for medics like Aroon, is management consultancy, most likely because the skills we have are very transferable: problem solving, analytical thinking and communication to name a few. The pertinent point is that Aroon, co-founder of Eurekadoc, chose to return to medicine as an orthopaedic registrar. Leaving medicine does not have to be permanent.
But if you are determined to burn the existential bridge like Dr Saif Abed, starting your own company is an option. He is the founder of AbedGraham, Europe’s leading clinically based IT strategy consultancy. Despite all the fun, entrepreneurship is not easy, warns Dr Rachel Thomas, “prepare for hard work”. This might explain how she has achieved being awarded BMA young writer of the year.
For a man like Dr Imran Kausar, evolution seems to be second nature. An anaesthetist, investment banker, a stint in the pharmaceutical industry and now, co-founder of a national food business, Haloodies. “Doctors are like beautiful birds trapped in gilded cages. Medical training squeezes the minds to become highly focused.” And it rings true, at least for me anyway. Learning to think a certain way makes us highly trained clinicians, but the cage limits what we perceive we can do.
Dr Gyles Morrison could relate to this. The clinical UX designer became fed up with the emotional toll that came alongside his clinical work, something we have all experienced. He realised he had an interest in IT and allowed his curious mind to lead him. For Gyles, changing career was not without struggle and he particularly felt the sting of having no support, leading him to publish book on this subject to help others.
What is interesting is how no two speakers had the same journey. There were similarities: a want for change and a willingness to take the steps required. Each speaker was led by an interest, a curiosity and began exploring, giving rise to opportunities. The laser focus on exams, accreditations and clinical work can force all of other forms of self-expression and imagination to wither and die. Dr Prasanna Puwanarajah, producer, director and actor, posed an interesting question, “will you make it to 65 in a healthy state?”. It is a thought that requires some self-analysis to help us reveal what it is we really want from life.
It is scary to think of wavering from the well-worn path. Medicine provides us with stability and a clear path of progression, but whilst it gives it also takes away. We are subconsciously taught to shy away from fear and risk and follow guidelines and protocol. But if we fear to make mistakes then we stagnate, we stay doing what we have always done.
Ultimately know your value. It is easy to forget it when you are tired and worn out. You have a lot more to offer. Whether you should stay, go or diversify is your choice. You could do all three. No decision has to be permanent.