‘F3’, the land of opportunity?
One of the most popular times to take a break from medical training is after completion of the UK Foundation Programme. It’s a natural break in the training ladder, and one has full registration with the GMC and a broad base of general medical knowledge and skills. In a way, it gives one a chance to rebalance some control back to address their individual needs. With specialty applications in the second Foundation year, it’s also a time when many junior doctors experience doubt over choice of specialty, or even career.
There are many reasons for this. Some doctors are not sure of what training they wish to enter, or not sure if they want to enter training at all. Some don’t get their preferred choice of jobs, or are disenchanted with the system. Some have caring responsibilities, or are burnt out and stressed after two very tough years. Some want to travel, or have health issues. Some just want to leave medicine for good. Regardless, there are things to appreciate.
Make sure to plan early and be organised. Think time, paperwork, finances and future plans. Oh, and most of all, what you want to do.
If you can, plan how much time you want to take off, how regularly you want to work, what other responsibilities you have and always have a back-up plan.
Jobs in the already popular destinations of Australia and New Zealand are becoming very competitive, so apply early.
It takes weeks to months to sign up to locum agencies, mainly due to paperwork. Staff Banks are less hassle and usually offer higher hourly rates.
Maintain your GMC registration as other options are generally paperwork and time heavy. Always seek clarification from the GMC about your plans and what to do.
Maintain a form of indemnity and be clear what you plan to do.
Apply for short-term clinical fellowships or research in specialities you’re interested in, but beware having too much experience as this can count against you in some future applications.
Look at the person specification and assessment criteria for specialty applications and try and fulfil them as much as you can in your time out of training.
Organise your portfolio and paperwork and keep it up to date. Conferences can turn into holiday destinations.
If you’re going to work abroad, research as much as you can and ask others. You don’t want to encounter unnecessary ethical or professional dilemmas.
Of course there are individuals that would like to take a well-deserved break away from clinical medicine or research. Doctors are generally seen as high-achieving, hard-working, capable individuals and one may wish to explore their options with this skillset. If this is the case, there are a number of organisations that cater to informing doctors of potential opportunities outside of medicine. Generally, all these opportunities require you to have experience in the chosen field or job. They can also be highly competitive, and one has to make the decision of how far from healthcare related jobs they wish to venture. Also keep in mind that these opportunities may not always enhance one’s bank balance. The reality may be different and one may find themselves working longer hours in more taxing circumstances for less pay. However the experience outside of clinical medicine is likely to be the focus.
One way many doctors have taken more control, experienced more outside of medicine, and worked in areas they’re interested in is by starting a company or organisation. Many doctors have gone down this route with varying levels of success and failure. It can be a great opportunity to learn many new skills if you’re willing to put the work into it. There’s lots of material to build on. If you work with others then you’ll find a new challenge, and leading individuals that work for you is even more challenging.
However keep in mind that the majority of start-up companies and organisations don’t succeed. The future is unpredictable and things don’t always go to plan. It may require one to take more time out of training than initially anticipated. There are associated costs and running a business is not something one is taught at medical school. Thus, it may be wise to work in an already founded startup to gain some insight and experience. Just keep in mind most startups can’t pay very well, if at all, and one is likely to need to enhance their income through other work such as locuming. Again, it would be best to ask the many doctors that have embarked on this journey for their advice.
The land of opportunity? Absolutely. The opportunities are vast and varied. The most valuable of which is that of developing one’s self.
Ali Jawad is a doctor in London. He is Associate Course Director at the HLA and an NHS Clinical Innovation and Entrepreneur Fellow as part of the first ever cohort under the National Clinical Director for Innovation at NHS England.
He has a background in graphic design, product development, innovation, charities, management, and healthcare education. He regularly gives talks on innovation in medical education and has presented his research internationally. He continues to teach locally and also leads a national teaching course for medical students. He has previously founded 2 healthcare companies and is currently out of training developing a healthcare platform in central London.