When a career is ailing in any way at all - taking action is the key.
Waiting and waiting and waiting - without action can easily lead to situations where the sparkle is so far back in time and the energy so depleted that even beginning any form of proactive career reevaluation feels terribly painful or scary or both. This is often when burnout sets in.
The key is to start proactive career planning as a student, to learn the key skills required for doing it well and to realise early on that it is YOU who is the driver of your career. Yes other people will require you to jump various hoops if your chosen plan requires that. Yes there are limitations as to which rotation or location you can get an NTN or consultant/ partnership - but it is still YOUR plan and no one elses.
You hold the career chariot reigns. You make the decisions
The big challenges are
- the goal posts keep changing
- the workload keeps increasing
- unacceptable working styles and practices are evident
So how on earth to navigate this and if you are well enmeshed with a mortgage and responsibilities or already at the career points of GP or consultant or wherever you have aimed for.
The trick I believe is to do not just an annual career appraisal ( which is really for your position and effectiveness within the organisation that pays your salary) but an annual career review. This is an altogether different animal to the appraisal.
Firstly - you don't have to do a review.
Secondly - it is an optional expense for keeping your career on track at all times ( and thereby avoiding drifting into situations from which it is hard to back paddle).
Thirdly - it is 100% entirely for YOUR benefit - and not for anyone else and is thus 100% private.
My view is that people often book holidays and buy new cars - yet find their work is destroying their very enjoyment of life.
What is the point of having a fab holiday only to be dreading the return to work.
So I think it must be a perception for many doctors that they can't do anything about their working lives. A view that I think is very wrong but it otherwise doesn't make sense to spend money on holidays when your working life is slowly killing if not you - then the passion which you once had for your career.
I should point out here that our career review programme comes with a guarantee - you can fill in the workbook listen to the audio and read the guide and if you feel you have joined the wrong thing for you - there is a full no questions asked refund.
The NHS and the government has a tendency to think it somehow "owns" its doctors' careers.
It does not.
But it attempts to and everyone appears to assume that it does. This disempowerment has to stop.
Tying medical students into five years of contracts once they start work might seem a good idea but when the armed forces do this - they pay for the student training or offer tempting grants. So yes - by all means say that "if we pay everything for your training then you need to remain for x years". That sounds like a fair deal.
But to say that you pay for your training - you get the loan - you pay for the privilege of studying medicine, you pay for all the postgrad exams ( and often the courses) but ..... we then insist that you stay - is somehow wrong and will I believe backfire like has never been seen before in medical recruitment terms. It is an under sea tectonic plate just waiting to sublux.
Will that reverse the trend and make medicine an attractive career option again?
Err that'll be a NO then!
Conversely - make medicine ( as a purely vocational degree that has shortages of applicants and shortages of doctors) a grant supported degree with no fees.. and the numbers of applicants will increase and so will the quality and bredth of candidate applying.
I won't even go into selections procedures for how to get the right sort of doctors who don't WANT to leave and what sort of career planning support should be given at medical school - I could write BOOKS on the topic. But 27 years working with doctors whose careers have in some way or other become stuck or drifting or on a plateau etc - probably makes me uniquely qualified to advise on what modifications to make to the curriculum and selection.
But of course - the medical schools, GMC, BMA and the government know best (?)
I should mention that I have been ever so slightly on the subversive side since childhood and just adore questioning the status quo - but they do say that it is people on the outer edge of the envelope who influence the tipping of the spinning plate - not the sheep huddled in the middle. I rest my case.