Careering Ahead

Focus your energies on what you can change

Last week, entry to the Foundation Programme was thrown into chaos after marking errors were discovered in its situational judgement tests. The tests have been manually re-marked and there were days of confusion and uncertainty for thousands of medical students.

The news must have been particularly hard for the 148  students who have had their first scheduled job suddenly changed following the failures.

It is this lack of influence that they find most difficult. As a profession, we want to make a practical difference to our patients and it is always upsetting when we have to admit defeat. The same is true for our careers: it’s hard to accept that something which so directly affects us is outside our control.

It’s natural to worry about the future but try not to allow yourself to fret about worst case scenarios. Such ‘catastrophising’ can become an energy-sapping vicious circle in which your anxieties feed on themselves and magnify, while you become a passive, angst-ridden wreck.

Instead, recognise what you cannot change and consciously focus your energies on what you can (and for medical students, that means your final exams). Think about your achievements and the qualities you have already shown at medical school and how you can build on them, whether it’s revisiting that audit you never quite got round to completing, trying your hand at medical journalism, or arranging to meet someone from a speciality you would like to pursue. If you are stuck, ask your educational supervisor or a colleague that you trust for advice on what would be a useful addition to your portfolio.

Of course, it may be a struggle to motivate yourself initially but even if it turns out that you have the placement you wanted, you certainly won’t have wasted your time. On the other hand, if you are to be disappointed this time, at least the positive steps you have taken will make difference to your future chances. And if you are asked in future interviews how you deal with adversity, you will have the perfect response.

Healthcare Performance was established by two doctors with over 30 years’ experience of clinical governance and medico-legal work. It specialises in careers coaching, professional development and organisational trouble-shooting within the healthcare sector.

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