Fear is not a factor in training decisions
Posted on 16 October 2012 by Emma Casely
Before I went to medical school as a graduate I spent a year working for a consultant immunologist as a research assistant.
The consultant rheumatologist in the office next door to him used to be a GP, and his wife used to be a hairdresser before becoming a Macmillan nurse.
You would therefore think that when I started out my medical career I would have realised that changing specialties is fairly commonplace in medicine. Strange then, that changing specialty was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life.
Since the powers that be rolled out the Modernising Medical Careers programme, doctors have been funnelled into specialties earlier and with less experience than ever before. People used to do years of stand-alone jobs in a large number of specialties before deciding which career paths to take.
At medical school, I flitted from wanting to be a surgeon, to an obstetrician to a paediatric consultant. As it turned out, I eventually decided upon a career in paeds having been seriously tempted by emergency medicine as well as numerous other careers along the way.
I had my eight-year run through training in paediatrics signed and sealed before I had ever set foot on a children’s ward or neonatal unit as my foundation doctor 2 job in neonatology didn’t start until long after the applications and interview process was complete.
There were many things I loved about paediatrics, dealing with sick children and their families most of all. However, as the months went by, I began to realise that it was not for me. I agonised over this quietly for a long time before I eventually voiced my feelings.
As I spoke to more people, I was told unanimously that I was crazy for even thinking of giving up my run through training and that I would find it almost impossible to get it again as interviewers would then always see me as a quitter.
My educational supervisor and the other consultants also made it very clear that they didn’t support my decision and I felt very alone. I decided that I didn’t want to be one of those doctors who only half enjoyed their job so after countless sleepless nights, with gritted teeth and more than a few tears, I took a leap of faith and filled out my application form for anaesthetics.
I have now been doing anaesthetics for more than two years and have honestly never been happier. I never knew that I could enjoy coming to work this much. It saddens me when I meet doctors who say they don’t really love their jobs but are ‘too old’ or ‘too far along’ to change.
I have also met many F1s and F2s who say that they would never even consider changing their career paths even if they were unhappy. There are so many doctors who have changed specialties and are far better doctors for it.
Experience is never wasted and fear is not something that we should allow to hold us back from doing what we want in life. There are always a million reasons not to act but if it doesn’t feel right, why keep doing it? Changing specialty was a stressful, painful and very frightening experience. I cannot recommend it to you highly enough.
Emma Casely is a core medical trainee 2 in anaesthetics in London
modernising medical careers