As a doctor now in my second year of training, the time is soon approaching for me to choose a specialty which I would like to do for the rest of my career.
Up to this point, my whole drive has been towards a career in emergency medicine and everything I’ve done including my electives, research and portfolio has been geared towards that.
However, something has changed in the past few months where I’ve started to
look at the bigger picture of what I want my life to look like. The past few months, during this covid pandemic, have, at times, consisted of busy, overworked and underappreciated night shifts and late shifts and long shifts, meaning I’ve had to miss out on valuable time with family and friends.
Driving to work for a night shift when you’d much rather be spending precious time with your family because they’ve come from abroad or missing out on a friend’s birthday because of your shift pattern, is not ideal in the least and at times it can be depressing.
Although my heart lies in emergency medicine and everything I’ve done prior to now has put me in a good position to get a training post, I’ve realised that there is more to a good, fulfilling life than simply what job you do or how much you enjoy your job.
I have hated having a rota coordinator telling me when to work, telling me when I have my night shifts or weekend shifts and telling me when I can have my days off. Not being in control of what I do with my days is extremely frustrating.
I’m lucky. The plan for me originally was to do Emergency Medicine for 15-20 years and then switch to General Practice anyway because I have always enjoyed GP too.
However, the more I realise the importance of being your own boss and choosing the lifestyle you want, the more I realise that our mind, just as much as our heart, has to be a part of the decision process when choosing a career.
For me, the idea of being a self-employed GP and having the flexibility to work essentially when I want to and still make a good living doing a job I love, is vastly more important than choosing a job that, yes I may enjoy the thrills of more, but will have little-to-no say over when I work.
When choosing a career, you shouldn’t focus on what life will be like as you’re in the training process but what life will be like once you’re fully qualified/specialised because this is what the majority of your life will consist of.
I need to have flexibility in my life so I can attend important family events, go on holidays when I want, have my evenings and weekends protected to nurture relationships with family and friends and to also have a comfortable income, allowing me to make smart investments so I can slowly work less hours.
At medical school, we are unfortunately not really taught to focus on the lifestyle aspect of being a doctor. However, the present-day doctor is someone who wants to “have it all” in terms of an enjoyable and fulfilling career, a good and comfortable income, time to spend with loved ones and go travelling and also opportunities to explore other interests.
I’m not advocating for any one to choose a career they would hate just because the lifestyle is better, but I am advocating for keeping what you want your life to look like in the forefront of your mind when choosing a career and consider whether or not compromises can be made to allow you to have more of what you want and more of what you will have wished you had when you’re on you’re deathbed and for me that is ultimately having more time with loved ones.
Talking about income and lifestyle and how much someone actually enjoys their job can be a taboo subject sometimes but I urge everyone to have these conversations with their seniors or with those doing a career you think you would want to do as it will help guide your own career decisions
As always, stay happy, stay healthy.