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THE DETOUR GUIDE TO DOCTORING


Burnout amongst healthcare professionals has skyrocketed in recent years – not least because of increased awareness of how it manifests and its consequences. This combined with overwhelming pressure on healthcare systems, general dissatisfaction as well as disillusionment with institutions eans that many healthcare workers, particularly doctors, are looking to either diversify their career or change career paths altogether.


Medical career progression pathways are often well-trodden, fixed paths which are built around workforce planning and service provision. It is only in recent years that there’s been more attention on initiatives like less-than-full-time training, which is gradually being adopted by health boards across the country. In addition, taking years out of training is now becoming the norm and the UKFPO career destination reports leading up to 2019 confirm this. The trend is clear – a proportion of doctors are taking a detour away from the conventional career pathways.


It is no secret that doctors are highly technically skilled and talented individuals with strengths in non-technical skills such as communication, time management and organisation. It should not come as a surprise that a lot of the characteristics are transferable skills that are sought after in a range of industries, not limited to areas such medical journalism, health policy, health technology, entrepreneurship, pharmaceuticals and medical illustration.


It is important to note that the decision to diversify or change career paths is one that should be an individualised – you should be the one making this decision on your own terms. This is not about encouraging doctors to leave the profession - far from it. It is about ensuring doctors feel fulfilled and valued, doing what they enjoy and are passionate about, whether that may be in conventional medical jobs or in alternative careers.


So where do you start if you want to take this leap? Here are a few points to consider:

1. Ensure you know why you’re considering a career change and what you’d like to achieve in your alternative career – do you want a completely fresh start or do you want to occasionally dip your toes in the pool of conventional medical jobs?

2. Capitalise on skills you already have – for example, you may be multilingual and a career in

medical translations would serve you well. Do you have additional degrees or experience in

the respective fields?

3. Do your research and make a plan – know what your options and interests are. Will you

need to do an additional degree or acquire a specific skillset? Do you have the funds to

achieve these? This will help you focus on the right alternative career option.

4. Be realistic – changing careers can be stressful and can even have financial impact especially when starting off. This can be alleviated by having a focused plan on what your goals are and what you want to achieve in this new chapter of your professional life.

5. Network, network, network! – changing careers will involve making new connections in your desired field. This could be through social media or in-person events.

6. Speak to someone – this may be colleagues, family or even a careers adviser. The decision to change career can elicit a range of emotions ranging from relief to disappointment to

resentment. It is important to talk about this significant decision with people you trust and

whose advise you can rely on.


Having considered the above, the next steps would be to start looking at resources out there. Check out the list we’ve complied below to start you off:

  • Medic Footprint, a platform by doctors, for doctors, which aims to support doctors’ careers has plenty of resources and opportunities available (https://medicfootprints.org/).

  • Some institutions offer conversion courses, which may be a means of fast-tracking a career change. Completing such a course would serve to enrich your skills simultaneously improving your job prospects – Prospects.ac.uk allows you to search relevant courses across institutions within the UK.

  • NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme offers a free year-long course, open to all NHS staff, aimed to support successful applicants develop innovative ideas to improve healthcare. Applications are open from the 3rd to 30th October.

  • Platforms like Future Learn or Open University offer a wide range of courses at all levels with different flexibility options.

  • The NHS UK website has a section on alternative roles for doctors, which explores some of the options available and suggestions on the necessary steps to take.

Finally, this guide is not to pressurise anyone into switching careers - the decision to diversify your medical career or switch careers altogether is yours to make without guilt or pressure from others. It is a significant life decision that should be given serious thought with all the necessary information available to you - something which we have tried, albeit briefly, to provide in this post.

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