Careering Ahead

Maximising a doctor’s potential to succeed

There are few things worse than being stuck in traffic when you have an appointment. If you are anything like me, your pulse increases, tell-tale beads of perspiration appear on your face and your stomach starts to churn.

And yet as soon as you have the opportunity to phone ahead and warn your contact that you are running late, all that stress seems to evaporate. You are still at the mercy of the red lights but you have changed your response to the situation.

In the same way, all of us experience periods of anxiety at the end of a bad day or as we contemplate the next rung of the careers ladder. It might be your relationship with your supervisor; how much time you are able to spend with patients; or whether you will get the training post you want. It’s natural to worry about any of these matters but you need to address your concerns and key to this is recognising what is within your control.

The following exercise may help…

Select a career objective that you decide is important and achievable (see my previous blog) and make a list of the things you fear will hinder you from reaching your target. Then consider these points in terms of what you can and cannot change and make a list of the three things you can do to help you reach your goal. For example, if you are an F2 doctor who eventually wants to be a cardio-thoracic surgeon, the list of points that you can address might include: participating in clinical audits, joining the SCTS, and seeking out a mentor from the specialty.

On the other hand, the principal obstacle outside your control might be the fierce competition for core surgical training posts in your preferred location. In my experience, it can be enormously difficult for academic high achievers to accept that there are situations where hard work and dedication may not lead to the desired outcome. Worse, many feel they will have failed if they do not achieve their objective, cranking up the pressure still further.

Recognising you cannot change the situation doesn’t mean giving up. Instead, it should prompt you to focus on what you can do yourself, from attending a communication skills course, to formulating a ‘plan b’ such as applying for a training post in another part of the country or perhaps getting experience overseas after your core surgical training.

By acknowledging what is outside your control and changing your response, you will give yourself the best chance of success and be ready to seize any other opportunities which come your way.

Next time: Your career to-do list

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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One Response to “Maximising a doctor’s potential to succeed”

  1. laura says:

    An intelligent person maximises his/her potential to succeed in life by not going anywhere near Medical School! So much for starters …

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