My leave of absence

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When I tell people I’m on a leave of absence because I don’t know if I want to be a doctor anymore, I get a number of different responses:

  1. ‘Enjoy your time off – make the most of it!’
  2. ‘I wish I could do the same’
  3. ‘Don’t be silly, this feeling will pass’
  4. ‘Are you quitting medical school?!!’

Telling my parents was the most daunting thing. I had received a job offer as a junior medical writer and was trying to weigh up my options. I was torn between wanting to take the leap and try something new because I was fed up of medicine, or powering through in the hopes that it would get better. I think I’m lucky in that my parents are pretty understanding people. Whilst telling them I wanted time off wasn’t without tears, they seemed to understand that I had thought hard about it, and I wasn’t walking away from it forever.

The reason I was getting fed up was because I didn’t particularly like the job that I was seeing before me. The science side of it is fascinating to me, and always will be. However, the bureaucracy of it all was really putting me off. I didn’t really want a job where time off was potentially scheduled in for me, where there was no guarantee I would finish work at a certain time, or even know my rota far enough in advance.

People might argue that I should have known all this when I considered medicine as a career and I should have been prepared to make that sacrifice. But I disagree. I don’t think any 16/17 year old, myself included, would fully understand what the job would entail. With the recent uproar and public attention drawn to what working as an NHS doctor is really like in the UK, I think any young person considering medicine is thinking hard about it and (hopefully) making the most informed decision they can.

For me, taking this time out has been a great decision. It’s removed the tunnel vision that can take over when you are so focused on just one goal, i.e. becoming a doctor. I’ve had my horizons broadened and know that there is more beyond practicing as a doctor and several paths available to me once I’ve graduated.

I don’t regret choosing medicine. Without it I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had and met the awesome people I know now.  Even if I don’t practice as a doctor when I graduate, I know that with those four letters after my name comes a certain level of skill and knowledge that can be transferable to any job I choose to pursue in the future. I don’t worry about what will happen after medical school because to me, making the leap into the working world was the biggest decision I’ve had to make, and it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought. I do plan to come back and finish my degree (although the thought of it does make me anxious), and I hope that I will return with a new attitude and outlook.

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4 thoughts on “My leave of absence

  1. Wow! This is a really great post. I think choosing medicine is a very difficult choice and one I struggled with. It’s always good to know that if you decide to not practice there are other amazing options. 🙂 What’re you up to now?

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    1. Thank you! I’m working as a medical writer at the moment for a healthcare communications company. It’s mainly working with pharmaceutical companies and communicating about the latest in the potential treatments for a range diseases. It’s definitely diverse! My plan is to return to medical school in September and finish my degree and take it from there. Your blog is great by the way! It’s definitely inspiring me to eat better and be healthy 🙂

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  2. Awesome post! Definitely take all the time you need. I find we as physicians/medical students take ourselves waaay too seriously and think we are the only ones in our situation (totally guilty of this!). Having some fun, stepping out of the clinical world is sometimes exactly what is needed to clear our head and see what we want to do with our lives!
    And don’t believe the naysayers – there is an entire GLOBE of opportunities out there. If medicine is not right for you, there are 1,803,036 other opportunities out there. Sure, it’s going to take some work, patience and determination, but they are out there!
    Lots of luck, enjoy the travelling!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, it’s just what I needed to hear as I am in the thick of clinics at the moment and want to be reminded I don’t have to do this forever..! I had a peek at your blog too which was super inspirational and has really made me consider my own lifestyle. Bad habits die hard when you’re a student.. 🙂

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