Many doctors I speak to, either as clients for my coaching services, attendees at conferences I speak at, or even close friends, feel that leaving medicine is a terrible thing. Often, they feel guilty for even thinking about hanging up their stethoscope. I used to feel terribly guilty before I successfully became the world’s first Clinical UX Designer. This guilt is infectious, not just to those around the guilt ridden host, but to the host themselves. 

This feeling of guilt is normal. Of course it’s normal! There is nothing wrong with having emotions, including fear, anger and the aforementioned guilt associated with the notion of no longer being a practising doctor. What you do with those emotions is what matters. Doing nothing in response to feeling down is harmful, and will only make the situation worse. One may discover that once they explore how and why they feel about working as a doctor, that actually working as a doctor is still a very satisfying way to earn a living and be a productive member of society.

 But trust me, it’s ok to leave medicine.

“I want to help people.”

People choose to study medicine for a variety of reasons; “my parents are doctors”, “I’m was good at all the subjects at A-levels”, “I want to help people”. The reasons that matter most are those that are in harmony with your core values. Core values, as the name suggests, are values that define you, the real you. Let’s use “I want to help people” as an example. There are many ways to help people. Helping people can be as simple as giving them what they need, be it a service or product of some kind. Here are a few examples:

  • Take them out for dinner
  • Bake them a cake
  • Reassure them that their cough is just the flu
  • Diagnose breast cancer and give them curative treatment
  • Design and build healthcare apps
  • Sell paintings
  • Give career coaching advice

Don’t just give people what they want though. Give them what you want to give. You should give and feel happy about giving. Do what makes you happy and share with the world. You will positively impact the people who come into contact with what you share, including you. That’s what musicians, athletes, chefs, teachers and indeed doctors do every day.

Chase happiness, not suffering.

Yet what happens if you share when you are not happy? Do you even have anything good to share when you are unhappy? There are many times in life when you are feeling down and this can be normal. But you don’t live to feel down. You shouldn’t suffer life, you should live it. Chase happiness, not suffering.

If your seat is uncomfortable and you can see or even make a more comfortable one, do so.

 If you have grit in your shoe, take it off, shake out the grit and put the shoe back on.

 If the sunlight is too bright, put some shades.

If you want change, then make change come. You don’t have to keep everything the same if it makes you unhappy. 

Your life is ultimately determined by your actions. The world and the people who live in it can influence your actions, and sometimes make you feel like you have no options at all, but ultimately you have to live the life you want to live.

I’ve only used HTC phones for about a decade, is that a waste?

A doctor’s life hasn’t been wasted because they have spent so much time studying and working as a doctor. Has my life been wasted because I’ve only ever lived in London until the age of 24? How about the fact that I’ve only used HTC phones for about a decade, is that a waste?

Nothing I, nor anyone else has done or experienced since they breathed their first breath has been a waste. It has actually all made them who they are. The good and the bad. All of it. Every piece of life one can and can’t remember. Your future is shaped by how use all that you have done and experienced in the present. That’s precisely how doctors even become doctors. They don’t just wake up one day as a doctor, they study medicine. Just think about the things you had to learn in the first 5 years of your life. Then think about how someone else would have done all that learning in another country, having different gender to you, and 50 years ago. We all learn from a variety of experiences in so many different ways. This learning is necessary for one’s future regardless of the life one lives.

Sometimes what we learn in life is for a very specific occasion. I seriously doubt I will ever be a weatherman or a geologist, but I studied geography because I needed to pick a GCSE option. It doesn’t really have a huge impact on my day to day life, though I know it wasn’t a waste of my time. I enjoyed studying geography, and I still know the significance of cold and warm fronts.

It’s ok to be different. It’s ok to feel guilty.

It’s ok to be unhappy, but it’s better to be happy 

It’s good to work as a doctor if it makes you happy.

 And its ok to leave medicine if that will make you happier.

If you are thinking about leaving medicine, or changing careers in general, please do get in touch.

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