Today I found myself with that familiar sense of dread I feel before starting a shift in the hospital. I checked my countdown that I have for when my contract ends, 165 days to go. It feels endless, and at times I feel defeated.
Can I go on?
There are reasons for why I have decided to finish my second year post graduation, mainly to have more options available for myself. However, there are days that are so tough that they make me question why I continue.
Sometimes I just feel like giving up and quitting.
Today something clicked…
After months, even years, of trying to change my mindset into a more positive one I had close to a revelation today.
I am not a victim of circumstance. What I am doing right now is my choice entirely. I began to repeat it to myself, I am not a victim, I’m choosing this.
The freedom of choice
For me, the biggest tragedy is feeling as if I am doing something against my will. Medicine is a difficult profession, and to push through the hardships I believe it is important to be completely behind what you’re doing.
The fact that my heart isn’t really in it, and I feel like I “have to” finish this contract is quite saddening. It victimises me, and makes me feel as if everything is out of my power and control.
Of course, one can never be entirely in charge of their own destiny. COVID-19 has proven that to the world. This unforeseen pandemic changed everyone’s plans and disrupted lives. Yet, despite the uncertainty and instability there is always a choice. Your reaction and emotional response is your responsibility. As hard as it is to accept (trust me I know) your mind set is completely within your power.
I’m not enjoying my work life right now, and I have never really enjoyed it. But, the reason why I am here today is because I choose to go to work.
I have chosen to finish this year. It’s all me. I’m no victim.
I have also chosen to not apply for jobs next year as a doctor. A colleague of mine told me “you’re so lucky you don’t have to do interviews for next year”. Then they corrected themselves, it’s not luck, it’s a choice. Just like they are choosing to sit for interviews, I was choosing not to.
Sometimes it can be easier to shift the blame and focus from yourself to your external surroundings. It isn’t your fault you feel bad or don’t like your life. You can have an endless list of things and people to put the blame on. The unloving mother, strict father, bullying in high school…it can go on forever.
In the end, everything in your life can influence you but be aware when it’s a choice.
I’m choosing to be a doctor right now, and to finish my contract. It gave me a strange sense of empowerment and confidence back.
It isn’t easy to come to this mind set. Especially if you’re used to externalising your problems, and feeling safe in the mentality of being forced into your life. I know, because I’ve been there. With the personality type of the ‘idealist’, escapism and victimising myself was my specialty. But it is detrimental to taking power of your own life, and really growing.
Learning to own your life choices and take charge can completely shift your life view.
Six reasons why your life can feel out of control as a doctor
As a doctor it can be hard to feel that you’re choosing your current situation. Here are the main reasons why.
1. Constantly changing roster out of your control
You can be on nights one week, days the next, and weekends are not your own.
2. Missing out on social events and holidays due to work
A public hospital always needs doctors. If they’re short staffed you have to miss out on that wedding or holiday. You can try submit requests for time off, but ultimately it is up to hospital administration.
3. Being pulled in a million different directions during your shift
As a junior doctor you’re expected to carry out tasks from nurses, patients, senior doctors and more. You’re the bottom of the hospital hierarchy, and you can’t say no.
4. You’re expected to work a certain amount of years before being a specialist
You need to work for two years minimum in general rotations before entering a specialty. It can sometimes feel like you spend years doing things you don’t want to do in a hope that you’ll be the specialist you want to be. It can be a challenge when years of your life don’t feel like your own. Some people try for half a decade to be accepted into a training program, and there is no guarantee.
The phrase of “I have to do this year” is common.
5. Where you work is not always your choice
Internship is a lottery. You can submit preferences, but your hospital is assigned by a ballot system. Pure luck. This could mean uprooting your family to another city, no way around it. After internship you can apply for jobs but in the end you go where they accept you.
Some hospitals will relocate you to other towns for 3-6 months at a time. So even if you get accepted into a city hospital, you have to commit to a rural hospital away from partners, family and friends.
If you say no, you would jeopardise your training program and career.
6. There is a hierarchy
Junior doctors are at the bottom. If your senior gives a plan it’s your job to carry it out. It can be very upsetting when you get told to do something you don’t agree with. It’s hard to say no. Saying no could lead to a question of professionalism and possible performance review. At the end of every rotation you sit down with this senior and they decide whether you “pass or fail”.
Failing equals repeating the whole three month term.
What we already know and what we can focus on
We have it all clear in our minds why it can be a struggle to take charge of your choices as a doctor. I’m sure within your heart you knew why before reading the above list. But what can we focus on to get the positive out of the situation?
My husband would always tell me things like “come on, take charge. Head up, shoulders back”.
I always laughed him off but he’s right.
Focusing on the narrative of “I have to do this” is harmful. Shifting the mindset to “I choose to do this” will truly empower us.
And if you don’t like your choice, you can always change it. Your life is your own, don’t be a passive bystander. In the end making mistakes that are your own choice can feel way better than living a mistake that wasn’t your own.