When you imagine yourself leaving the world of medicine you often wonder if you have any transferable skills. Inserting an IV cannula does not seem to translate across to an office job. Writing discharge summaries on time may be proof you can make deadlines? It seems like the profession of medicine is an island of its own, far from the mainland of other jobs. However, there is something that all doctors are an expert in, maybe without even knowing it, and that is adaptability.
Adaptability: the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions
Medics are constantly thrown into the deep end from the beginning of their careers. You may feel persistently out of your comfort zone, and at times under immense amounts of pressure.
In medical school you constantly rotate between hospitals and specialties. The longest you stay in one place is likely 10 weeks. Every day you arrive to work there are usually different staff members, with nurses and doctors working on shifts. You need to learn where everything is, who everyone is, the different equipment, the new technology, and also figure out a new medical specialty. You’re then assessed on your performance of that short period of time, and need to make a conscious effort of impressing new senior doctors every few months.
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At about the 8 week mark of these terms you begin to feel comfortable, you finally get the hang of the specialty. You finally know where everything is, the computer system actually has your login, and you are on good terms with the staff. But, then you need to say goodbye and move onto the next hospital.
As a working doctor this continues, with most of your career broken down into terms. Changing hospitals and departments is just what you do. Some days the hospital changes your equipment overnight, you don’t get taught how to use it, you just do.
This constant change becomes routine and normal.
For introverts it can be especially tricky to find yourself in new environments, with a whole group of unknown people that you need to leave a mark on.
Why this constant change breeds such remarkable adaptability
It is hard to imagine another career that has such constant change.
I can only speculate that in most professions you have an orientation to staff and the environment. Maybe you get taught on how to operate the equipment?
In medicine you often fumble through your first day, asking people where things are and what to do. You’re expected to write 10 discharge summaries, but don’t even have access to the computer logins. Maybe you spend a few hours calling IT department frantically for some help.
On top of this, there are actual sick patients that need caring for. It can be stressful, and the pressure is huge.
Yet doctors are used to this. Starting a new term, going to a different hospital, getting those security passes changed every 3 months is just part of the job. It is so normalised that we can sometimes take for granted our resilience and versatility.
All of this disruption actually breeds very flexible, fast learning and adaptable people.
So if you’re considering a career change and leaving medicine, don’t sell yourself short. You actually have more transferable skills than you may be aware of.
The ability to work under pressure, in a high pace and constantly changing environment is something that you can be proud of.
If you can survive that, you can probably work through most things.
Instead of focusing on what you may lack, let’s focus on all the expertise you have gathered from years working in the medical profession.
A career that truly produces resilient and adaptable human beings.