“I’ve just started my F2 year and I’m really unhappy at work. I struggled through F1 and always felt like it wasn’t what I had been expecting in terms of how disrupted my life would be. But I thought I just needed some time to adjust as I was new to the job and that eventually I might get used to it. But now I’ve started F2 I still feel as bad as I did then and I really don’t know if this is the career for me. I feel really stupid for having gone through medical school only to decide this now but I don’t know what to do. Will things get better? Have I just wasted the last 7 years of my life and actually am better off doing something else? I don’t really know what the next step is to take as I feel like I’ve thought about this long and hard and I really don’t feel ready to enter a 10 year specialty training programme feeling like this, I’m not even sure if I want to continue working as a doctor.”
You’re not alone. Many, if not all, doctors experience this at some point in their careers. Some of them do choose to leave – so there’s no right or wrong way to handle what you’re feeling.
Take your time – and be sure of what you want to do before you make a big decision like quitting entirely. Speak to friends, family, and any senior colleagues you can trust to advise you.
If you’re thinking about this seriously, a career break might be your best option at first. It’ll give you time and space away from work without relinquishing GMC registration. The end of F2 is an opportunity to take a break without having to apply for one, as you can just not continue training. Your foundation training is valid for up to three years, so you can defer or apply for specialty training later. It’s up to you what you do with time out – you can locum if you want to. Additionally, you can access support programmes to help you through this – HEE’s Professional Support Unit is a self-referred one. I strongly recommend this – I’ve taken career breaks, and it’s amazing how a little distance from work helps you to process your feelings about it.
If you’re feeling desperate and genuinely thinking of leaving right now, bear in mind that you’ll need to hand in notice to both your Foundation Programme and your employing Trust. If you want to return, you’ll need to apply for an F2 LAT post to complete your foundation programme before applying for any specialty.
Ultimately, it’s your life – you should decide how you want to live it! That includes what you do for work. If you decide that this isn’t for you, there’s a world of opportunity out there – good luck!