As the clinical year comes to an end, it’s a huge time of transition and looking towards the future. Since it’s my PGY2 year, all of my colleagues are at the start of their journey to consultancy. Every conversation revolves around what one is doing next year, and what plans you have for your future in medicine. I’ve found myself in a slightly different scenario, as I’ve decided not to apply for any medical jobs for 2022.

A few are already in psychiatry training, most have basic physician training jobs, a handful have junior surgical roles, there are lots of future GPs and then the people striving to eventually get a job in anaesthetics….the list goes one.

There are people who have decided to do another year of the same (being a general resident in the hospital) and a couple who did not get any job offers. Some of my friends have been disappointed by not getting onto their training program after years of trying. The three strikes and you’re out policy barring them from attempting again.

We are at the start of the road, a long one.

Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

The odd one out

Feeling a bit like the black sheep of my cohort, I think I was one of the only doctors to not apply for a job next year. I know of one other resident who quit before the clinical year ended, and she’s planning to set up her own cosmetics practice.

Otherwise, most people on asking what I’m doing next year look at me with a mixture of confusion and pity. Many don’t understand the choice when I reply to questions of my future career with, “I haven’t applied for a job”.

Of course I get unwanted advice and unsolicited opinions from many, both medics and non-medicos.

“Why don’t you just apply for another year as a resident?”

“Why don’t you just become a GP?”

“I thought you wanted to do anaesthetics? You should, it’s so easy.”

I’m very confident that my decision is the right one for me, so any opinions offered (either good or bad) I respond with indifference. In the end, it’s my life that I have to live. No one else will work on these specialties for me.

Photo by Topich on Unsplash

Why I haven’t applied for a job

These past two years have been one of the hardest and most challenging of my life. I’ve had multiple moments where I didn’t believe I could make it, and I did break down. Physically, emotionally and mentally I am spent. This year has given me an all new meaning of burnout, and a true understanding of its effects.

My memory is impaired, it’s hard to regulate emotions, and I’ve had issues with eating and sleeping. It’s expressed itself in so many ways involuntarily, my hormonal imbalance can be seen by everyone through my skin and general appearance.

I’m not writing this to generate sympathy or feel sorry for myself, I’m just trying to convey how I’ve found 2020 and 2021 especially difficult.

Though I am getting better at dealing with the hardships of hospital life, it’s not easy to recover from burnout quickly. Even two to four weeks of annual leave doesn’t refresh you, and I can see this in many of my colleagues. COVID-19 has added to the already demanding job, and I respect everyone who continues to work in public hospitals.

In the end, I just don’t love what I do and a medical career requires a lot of passion to keep motivated. I haven’t found the specialty I want to pursue, and I’m doubting if clinical medicine is even for me.

Photo on Unsplash by Tangerine Newt

Figuring things out

Instead of plunging head first into another year of residency (which is easily done) or applying to become a GP, I’ve decided to stop and think. I think we can really take for granted the value of time and thought with a rested mind. Working in medicine can seem like you’re always running on a conveyor belt, unable to look around or behind.

The sheer amount of hours spent at work, studying, and stressing about the future gives you very little reserves to actually pause and see how you feel.

Next year I give myself permission to slow down, work when I want to (as a locum) and rest. Once I’ve recuperated I can properly think about my next steps, and what I want to do with my life and future.

Essentially, I am removing the pressure and stress to decide now from my shoulders. I don’t see the rush, and would rather make a careful choice, than a hurried one.

Next year I plan to work less, and dedicate time to relationships and my interests. I do believe the way will become more apparent with time (and rest!).

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

What’s next?

I honestly don’t know. At times I feel anxiety about having no idea about what will happen. But that’s also the exciting part. The path to consultancy is well paved and done before, that decision is less scary but not what I want right now.

Being of service to others is important to me, but this can be achieved in a multitude of ways. Medicine isn’t the only way to make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Will I return to clinical medicine for good? I really don’t know at this point.

All I know is that I feel like the darkest days for me are over, and I’m looking forward to the future possibilities with a lot of hope.

As of today I have 24 shifts left until I am finished with residency for real. Almost there…

For more of my blog posts check out disillusioned medic. A great resource for medics questioning their career choice, I also happen to make some guest writing posts there.