Careering Ahead

Plan the steps necessary to achieving your goals

From inserting a urinary catheter to assessing a newly-admitted patient, during a busy hospital shift, you can expect to be bombarded with tasks from the moment you arrive in the department. Whether you sink or swim depends on how quickly you learn to prioritise and plan ahead.

And planning ahead is just as important when it comes to your career objectives. As with the ever-lengthening to do list on-shift, it doesn’t make sense to simply plough straight in and hope to reach your target through force of will alone.

In my experience, one of the main reasons that doctors do not achieve their goals is because they are too vague and unspecific. You may have decided that you need to take part in a research project for example but you really need to focus on details such as ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ in order to turn that statement of intent into a concrete achievement for your portfolio.

To do this, I often take my clients though the following exercise: think about the objectives you identified as being achievable and draw up a list of actions that will help you achieve these goals. Now work through the following questions for each action:

1. What do I want to achieve?

2. How will I do this?

3. How will I do that?

4. How committed am I on a scale of 1-10 to doing this?

5. How realistic is it that I can get this done, on a scale of 1-10?

6. By when?

Questions 2 and 3 should encourage you to break down your objectives into manageable and logical steps, rather than feeling you have to do everything in one giant leap. If you want to become a medical director, for example, you could break this down into actions such as improving your organisational skills in order to combine a clinical and management role which in turn might require you to take a specialist MBA in health management. Or you might need practical experience of clinical governance which could in turn lead you to approach your medical director about a secondment.

Whatever the tasks you set yourself, it’s important to be honest about your own commitment to achieving them and set yourself a realistic time scale for doing so.

And your action plan should be more meaningful for being informed by the conclusions you have come to about your values, objectives and by focusing on what lies within your control.

This is the final stage of the planning process I outlined in my first blog, but it is important to keep reassessing as you progress through your career. Your priorities may change if for example, you have a family or a relative becomes unwell or you may be attracted by a wholly new area of medicine.

Next time: Beating the bullies

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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