The struggle for “out of practice” doctors

While attending the courses, I came across quite a few doctors who were “old” graduates ( *cough* including myself).

The doctors I met were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Ireland, Italy and England herself (to name a few).

There were common themes that I would encounter with every doctor.

Shame.

Guilt.

Feelings of inadequacy.

Surprisingly, I felt these feelings was stronger with “fresh” graduates, or graduates who had been out of the clinical field for 3-5 years. Though “older” graduates felt the same, I had a sense they had more time to adjust to their reality they were in. This is not to say us “older” graduates were any less determined to get back on the saddle and face this challenge head on.

The shame came from the fact that the doctors weren’t a “success story” after their graduation as one always hears, seeing their class fellows become SHO’s and Consultants. The shame of seeing their juniors supersede them and not living up to the families expectations was expressed by many. Of course once you start your training, none if this really matters. But these feelings are quite pervasive until you are in the program.

The guilt was more noticeable among the female doctors who went on to marry and have children. They often expressed feeling they should be at home with their kids and somehow they are being less than perfect mom. I could often see them lost in thought during class/conversations. When I would stop and ask them if they were okay, I would often get “I’m just thinking about my kids. I hope they are okay.”  This is not an uncommon theme among female doctors who are mothers – to feel ambivalent and even guilt. However, it is an obstacle when faced with exams like the PLAB’s and CSA that demands their attention away from the family. For male doctors, the guilt was that they had not succeeded or been able to land a job that could support them (and the family) properly. This leads to the following …

The feeling of inadequacy stems from the fact that candidates in this position often have been unable to find a decent job after graduating and often have a poor source of income. I remember a local graduate mentioning she was often told she was “over qualified” , e.g. when she applied for the position of 111 receptionist. During a group discussion, she mentioned that she was told finding a job with a medical degree would be a piece of cake. However, she was unable to find one unless she omitted details from her CV to “dumb it down”.

There are other elements like personal disappointment and a sense of isolation i.e. closing off from colleagues + not being connected to other doctors in similar conundrums. The possibility of depression among such doctors can not be ruled out.

For me, I did not have a problem with most of the issues above. I have a career in Public Health which I have a passion for. The strongest feeling I probably had was knowing I was taken out from the clinic against my will (as I was unable to get my registration in Holland where I am from). In a way even, I felt I was not living the life I could be living. As I said, I love public health, don’t get me wrong, but I’m also a physician. A clinical doctor.

A sense of relief came when I found others who were in my shoes, and boy there were a lot of doctors!

I noticed upon finding each other, doctors like myself found relief and encouragement in pursuit of that common goal … a kinship of sorts, irrespective of nationality , race and religious differences. However, I did notice that these doctors were less keen to talk about their past experience and felt embarrassed. Most would not volunteer that information and others ignore the questions completely. But at the end, we respected the other persons privacy and silently nodded to each other – as if to say – “I get it. We’ll make it, no worries. “