A follow-up post by Dr Clare Barton who wrote “On Leaving Medicine.”
Behind the new door:
It’s now been over 6 months since I properly left medicine. No more appraisals, off the GMC register, proper door shut stuff.
I’ve had lots of the usual questions – do you miss it? Any regrets? Did you want to just do a couple of sessions to keep your options open? No, no and no. That’s just for me. I do know loads of people who have a much healthier and happier balance that they used to by combining a few GP sessions with other interests but, being the somewhat stubborn person I am, I wanted to leave completely.
Has it been challenging? Have there been stressful moments? Definitely, and yes, plenty of them. The most obvious at the start is the financial worry of jumping from something that’s regularly paid, to a monthly scramble of different ideas that might possibly be enough to make the mortgage.
Am I happier? Hell yes! The mental exhaustion had really ground me down – I was surprised (perhaps naively) at how long it took me to ‘get over’ medicine; to stop feeling the negative debilitating anxiety, and to channel my skills towards pastures new.
Medics – we’re a funny bunch. We’re resourceful, clever, organised, and yet it can become so easy to be pigeon-holed into these expected career pathways. We can be a self-critical cohort of people and, when faced with leaving medicine, the feelings of ‘I wouldn’t know what to do’ arise easily.
You can do anything!!!!!
I now divide my time between:
- My 3 kids (that’s the mother of all jobs!)
- Helping to run a jiu jitsu academy
- Co-director of Medical Exam Prep
- Blogging on In The Zen Garden
And each of these roles takes skills that I learned from medicine, such as organisation, discipline, a knowledge of medical examinations.
Starting any business or idea requires a lot of hard work and determination, but if you made it through medical school, then you’re already abundantly experienced in these areas. The key for me was the flexibility it provides; there’s no more annual leave requests, no deadlines set by other people and you definitely get to eat lunch everyday! The pleasure, too, of watching things build up that you’ve played an integral role in, since day one.
And what about that old cliché of helping others? Yes, that was definitely one of the driving forces behind going into medicine. But I do strongly believe that you can help others in many many ways. It’s true I no longer examine, diagnose or prescribe, but my varied roles have allowed me to be part of people’s lives in different ways:
I’ve seen the bullied train confidently with the bullies in the jiu jitsu classes, and go from being the kid that sits crying on the side to the one that feels physically empowered.
With the team at Medical Exam Prep we try and lead the market on free resources both through the website and via social media, and that includes tips on dealing with physician burnout too.
I am (hopefully!) a better mum now – at least I feel more present, and have more time for the kids. Leaving behind a huge chunk of anxiety has helped me to become more patient too.
No job should make you unwell. There are many different ways to cope and this often involves reducing hours and getting a better balance. But for those who are considering a complete change of direction, I can only say ‘Go for it!’
As the wise poet Guillaume Apollinaire wrote:
“Come to the edge,” he said.
They said, “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
They came. He pushed them….
And they flew