5 things to note when beginning your medical career

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With the dawn of a new year, many of us will look back and reflect on our lives and the decisions we have made along the way. OK, I know this is somewhat idealistic and we may only do this fleetingly but at least we tried!

2018 marks a significant anniversary for me; drumroll please…..10 years since I graduated from
medical school. I can’t quite believe it and yes, of course I still look as young and fresh as I did when I started university!! Anyway, moving swiftly on, I have compiled a list of 5 things I would go back and tell myself at the start of my medical career. Read on and see if you agree or in fact can relate.

 

1. Don’t be forced into making a training choice

Career path and progression within medical training are unfortunately rigid and unyielding. We often feel pressured into making decisions at the very start of our career, sometimes even whilst we are at medical school. There are of course those who know from day 1 what they want to do, and they will strive to achieve that goal no matter what. Good for them and I admire that drive, however I had no idea which training route I wanted to take, and I struggled to make the right choice.

Because of my fear of being the only person who didn’t have a chosen specialty, I chose quickly and I chose wrong. I ended up jumping from specialty to specialty because I didn’t know what was right for me and how can you decide from experiencing something for a 4-month rotation! Of course, I gained invaluable experiences from my different training posts and don’t regret that. I just wish I hadn’t felt so internally and externally pressured into making a choice.

Don’t be afraid to not have the answers, be bold, take a chance and choose what you want to do, not what you feel you should do. Becoming a consultant or established GP are lifelong careers so there is no rush to get to that point. Take your time and ultimately do what is right for you.

 

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff

How many of us have had one of those days where we wish we had never gotten out of bed?! The ward round takes forever, you can’t get that cannula in, the consultant chooses to grill you on vascular anatomy and everything just goes down-hill.

Unfortunately, these days are part and parcel of medical life. We all have them and we have to
choose whether we brush off the bad times or let them grind us down. Just remember, as we all run around like headless chickens trying to finish the dreaded jobs list that you are not alone. Everyone has bad days and I promise, you will survive them!

 

3. Cherish your relationships

With the increasing demands of work, on calls, non-clinical commitments and the list goes on, there must be some sacrifice somewhere. Unfortunately for me this was my relationships with friends and family. I am sure many of you can relate to missing special events, significant celebrations etc because you are doing a dreaded on-call stint and ultimately this has an impact on your personal life.

Inevitably as your life moves on, so do the people in it. However, remember that core group who will always be part of your life and make time for them. Whether it is picking up the phone or dropping by, value that these relationships are what get you through the roller-coaster that is life.

 

4. Accept the E-Portfolio

I can already sense the groans and eye-rolling but unfortunately, I speak the truth. The heart sink that is the E-portfolio and if you are anything like me, you promise to keep on top of it but always seem to be scrambling around in a last-minute panic trying to finish it before the dreaded deadline!

I know having a pristine portfolio doesn’t and shouldn’t define your skills as a doctor, but it certainly helps in your career. Be strict with yourself and just do it and it doesn’t matter how many tantrums you throw (not my proudest moment admittedly), the E-portfolio is here to stay!

In fact, I begrudgingly admit that it has helped me in my training “jumping” because I have been able to show evidence of progression and feedback and I know if I didn’t have the evidence, things would have been a lot harder

 

5. Always be kind and value your colleagues

I mean this in the least patronising way, but kindness goes a long way not only in medicine but also in life.

There is so much pressure in hospitals and people are always rushing about frantic trying to get things done. The one thing that gets you through those torturous days are your colleagues. They know what you are going through and can relate to all those horror experiences.

The busiest days were some of my best days, because of the teams I worked with. We looked after and helped each other because ultimately you are all working towards the same goal. Whether it is making a round of hot drinks, helping move a patient or taking your juniors bleep to let them have some food, it is all a kindness and appreciated more than you realise.

Jason Peart