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Unlocking a Flexible Medical Career in 5 Steps: My Journey of Transformation and Belief Shifting

When I left medical school, my idea of being a doctor was limited to working long shifts and nights in the clinical environment, hospital wards, or GP surgery. Despite getting one of my highest marks in the Public Health module during studying, I had little idea of what working outside of full-time clinical medicine looked like – let alone the variety of options available to work more flexibly or how different the impact I could have in the world could be.

Being immersed in the full-time ‘clinical’ medical model made me feel like a square peg in a round hole. I didn’t feel like I fit. Yes, I loved being on call in the acute medical wards, and my ability to sleep at any time during the day helped me endure endless nights…but somehow, I wanted to explore something else. My passion for global health was unmet by finishing my membership exams and following the same path as many colleagues.

I didn’t know what something else could look like! This uncertainty and unknowing led me to explore a tropical medicine diploma, work overseas with an NGO and take on a clinical research post…all in the quest to understand what else was out there.

Coupled with my lack of mentors or role models, I craved flexibility and a fulfilling career… most of all, I wanted to be inspired by doctors working in different environments…and doing medicine differently!

I feared that if I turned my back on my clinical work, the exams that I had taken so much time and effort (and money!!) to pass… I would somehow be throwing away everything that I had worked hard for…and what if I didn’t like it…how would I go back…if that was even possible!

Taking those first stepping stones to think outside the box has led me never to stop exploring! Unleashing a world of possibilities to have a flexible and fulfilling career.

My path continues to shimmy its way along…but I have never looked back and continue to be excited by the opportunities that come my way.

Here’s how I overcame those beliefs that were tricky to shift….so you can too!

1. Self-discovery

Part of figuring out what I wanted to do was understanding who I had become. Getting to know myself so I could understand my beliefs and expectations created over many years…and start to untangle them one by one. It wasn’t always easy, but by taking time to download those thoughts and to see them for what they were…only thoughts…ones that could be challenged and broken down. Realizing that my expectations of being a doctor at the age of 16 when I first embarked on narrowing my focus to become one…didn’t have to define who I was now. I realized that my evolution as a person was just as important as my transformation as a medical professional.

2. Let go of the attachment

It’s easy to hold on to an identity from a current or previous role to feel secure – to embrace that safety blanket. As doctors, our titles and roles can define who are are…but we are so much more than that! Letting go of the need to cling to a particular title allowed me to focus on the "why" rather than the "what." If I could use my skills, expertise, and training to make the impact in the world that I wanted to make…did it matter what my title was! Embracing change became an art, and I found that the journey held more value than any predefined destination.

3. Embrace lifelong learning and growth

This one may sound easy –as doctors, we love taking a new certificate, or diploma or studying for a master's or sub-specialize. However, true learning extends beyond textbooks and examinations. I realized that my journey wasn't solely about accumulating degrees but about discovering how my knowledge could shape the doctor I aspired to be. But…the critical part I realized was that learning was also about myself. Lifelong learning became a two-fold adventure—new and exciting skills and exploring the depths of my potential.

4. Use your values as a compass.

Unveiling my core values was a transformative moment. Throughout my career, I had rarely been asked to delve into the essence of what truly mattered to me. Armed with this newfound insight, I began using my values as a compass, steering me through the currents of change. To constantly refer to them to see why and how I should make decisions about my career and life – helping me chart a course that aligned with my authentic aspirations.

5. Embrace mindful ways to live every moment.

Bringing more mindfulness into my life has helped me to acknowledge where I am – the present moment. And at the same time realize that life is full of ups and downs and embrace and feel all of them. Yes, paths do not always turn out as you expect…many of my decisions have been very different from what I had anticipated…but being mindful and bringing that quality of being into what is going on in your world can help you to move through it…instead of getting stuck. If you are struggling to make time for yourself and want to learn how to get a better work-life balance, especially when you feel short on time, come and join the next Reset Your Medical Career Workshop! Click the link to learn more and to register


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