I have eleven shifts left, starting Monday. Currently I’m on annual leave and enjoying my final few days before returning to the storm that is the public health system right now. COVID has hit hard, and hospital admissions are high, with many staff unable to work. Knowing I have limited time left makes it all seem bearable though.

Right now, my mind set is shifting. I’m looking towards the future and realising that soon I won’t be a full time employee. It’s what I wanted, but it’s scary thinking on the lack of stable income.

Being a doctor and having a full time job provides a certain easiness to life. Credit checks are a breeze, banks give you loans, rental applications approved and of course secure employment.

Unemployment means I’ll need to be a little bit more creative this year. Plus I’m the main income earner of my household, putting more pressure on myself to figure out a way to make money. There’s rent and bills to pay. So what now?

Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash

Financial plan

Medicine doesn’t pay a lot more than other jobs, but the sheer amount of hours, overtime and unusual shifts gives you a healthy income. When you step away from full-time clinical medicine one of the biggest fears can be how to come up with the money to survive. I know that was one of my main worries.

The past two years I’ve paid off my debts and tried to save. I’ve managed to accumulate 22 months worth of rent in my savings account, so I’m not in a bad place financially to be unemployed. Though I’m the main income earner in my household, I don’t have any dependents or a mortgage. This relieves a lot of life pressures that other people may have. I feel super fortunate about this.

To safe guard myself and my family, I’ve thought of how to support us this year while not being full-time. Signing up to a few locum agencies was my answer. Completing my residency was a real test of my perseverance, but the main advantage of doing this was options.

Completing two years of work experience opens up your world as a doctor. First, you have general registration. Second, you’re eligible for most specialties. Third, you have way more job opportunities as a locum doctor.

I’ve been receiving an influx of emails, text messages, linkedin messages and phone calls from locum agencies asking if I can start work in February. Though it can feel overwhelming at times, it at least shows to me that there will be jobs available.

Despite my fears and anxieties I’m feeling better about my financial plan for 2022, with my savings and the chance to be a locum.

Click here to see a more focused article on dealing with the financial side of leaving medicine.

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What now?

So I have my financial plan set. Now there comes another thing to think about. I’ve had a head start with dealing with this in December/January during annual leave. What do I do with all this new free time?

It may sound like a strange thing to worry about. It’s not so much an actual problem but just something very unfamiliar. If you’re like me you may not be used to having a whole lot of time for yourself. Even pausing to rest can be super strange and at times I even feel guilty for not feeling productive.

All of my childhood, teenage years and young adulthood was spent in school. As a kid I did extra work, with my mum enlisting me in Kumon at the age of 10. This meant that on the weekends and school holidays I’d spend an added hour a day studying maths and English.

Outside of that I was enrolled in a plethora of extracurricular activities. Ballet, tap, jazz, artistic gymnastics, swimming, choir, basketball, athletics, netball and rowing. It’s amazing I managed to fit so much in, but that was my normal.

From high school, I went straight into medical school. Studying full time and working three part time jobs. There was no such thing as downtime. I had two years off between starting med school and internship. Even though I wasn’t studying I was busy. 2016 I spent the first six months working seven days a week to save money, then backpacked South America. In 2019, I did a road trip with my boyfriend through Chile and Argentina. By September 2019, I was back to full time work, waiting tables and tending the bar at the local pub to pay off debts. January 2020, I was in internship and have been a full time doctor since.

Basically, I’m painting the picture that not working is something foreign to me. I do have things I enjoy outside of medicine and I don’t get bored with my free time. However, I want to start working towards a new goal. I’ve an idea of what I hope for, but not sure which direction to take. So I’m facing the endless and exciting possibilities of what now?

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Importance of looking after your wellbeing & doing what’s right for you

I’m really glad that I put in the work in 2021 to finish my residency. It was the right choice for me. However, if you are struggling with your mental health please know that no job is more important than your wellbeing. Take care of yourself first, and then you can figure things out once you’re okay.

Your employer will actually be more understanding than you think. If you’re struggling in internship flag it early so that you can possibly go to part time in residency. Maybe find another doctor who is feeling similarly in your network and you can organise a job sharing contract. There are options. Join the doctors union too. They can advocate for you when you can’t.

Time to enjoy my last moments as a full time junior doctor! Who knows if I’ll come back for more?