Jan 2020: A time to reflect
For the first time in 18 months I have managed to find the calm in my work-life balance. After a year not working in 2017 living in Montreal Canada where my husband got a job working with their football team, I had a rare break from medicine and wrote about it (http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2018/03/16/samantha-anthony-career-breaks-should-be-supported-not-feared/). I had the idea to start up this Peritted To Pause website and twitter page (it took me forever to learn how to tweet, I’m not even on Facebook, and only managed to set up Instagram with a LOT of help, and as for starting a blog...well it has actually been a diary which I didn't blog at the time as you can see!). I felt that doctors deserved the opportunity to take healthy breaks during their long and intense careers, to save their physical and mental health and to help to preserve their motivation and career longevity. This awareness I'm pleased to see has increasingly been promoted in the uk for doctors and healthcare workers, and mine was taken as an unpaid career break entirely through opportunity and overwhelming support from my team. Working in dermatology we are a non acute speciality, and whilst we have huge volumes of outpatients, the nickname of “dermaholiday” has stuck since my medical school days. And after training in surgery and then General Practice, I hadn't even known that my pefect job in this profession would be in dermatology, and after a privileged wealth of exposure and experience in most areas of medical care along the way, performing surgery in dermatology, particularly on skin cancers with my patients awake, has been for me the most globally rewarding job that I feel lukcy to have been plucked to enter for the past 15 years. Sick patients-yes, cancer patients-yes, on calls-no, challenging facial surgery-yes, emergencies-rarely. But life also gets in the way, and carrying the responsibility of scores of patients each week, breaking bad news, managing surgical complications, managing patient anxieties and expectations, is still a responsibility.
So coming back from Canada and getting back to the job I love and missed, was a joy. I also unexpectedly had a chance offer of adding in to the mix a second job working for a successful emerging start up digital health tech company (the future of medicine and health care, there’s no escaping it). Another privileged insight, with a steep learning curve, I soon found that doing both of these jobs to the max found me being stretched in many directions, including well beyond my comfort zone, in many ways. Somehow, after a period of reflection and re-energising in Canada, I had found that my work life balance had got out of control. Again. After only 18 months back in the UK. Mission Creep is what my dear freind and retired GP Trainer called it when I told him (again) that I had reached my peak of tolerance in summer of 2018. So I reflected again, and spent autumn of 2018 retracing my steps to my happy place once more. The irony being that I had no time to consider further my Permitted To Pause project. Maybe 2020 would give me that time back again.
By Dr Sam Anthony
Survivor of a career in medicine, a career break from medicine, cancer, and blogging..join me in my quest to make us happier healthier individuals and doctors