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Doctor quit over stress from job

Almost a year ago, I sat in the office of a counsellor, the third in five years, in another attempt to “learn how to cope” with the working life of a junior doctor. I was ready to hang up my stethoscope, which had become a noose around my neck.
The storm had been brewing since my early days as a junior doctor. On paper, I was blossoming: I had spent five years at university and six in acute specialties, building a CV shining with national prizes and publications. However, a crumbling
NHS forcing doctors to compromise care and the inflexible path for mothers in part-time training led to my departure. After battling both for six years, I faced burnout and was directed to a counsellor to help me, in the words of senior male colleagues, “toughen up and comply with the system”.
Efficiency measures combined with increasing patient demands and a lack of social care mean there are not enough staff , beds or provisions to meet current needs. I faced two options: comply and lower my standards or fight the system and stay a little longer, working a little harder to maintain the level of care I trained to provide. But the latter comes with a personal sacrifice and often results in burnout; mental health problems within the profession are rife, but seldom discussed.
There were nights when if the patient wasn’t nearing cardiac arrest, they weren’t sick enough to be seen”
Life on the wards felt like being on the frontline of a war zone, and there were nights when three doctors were on call for over 1,200 medical patients, when if the patient wasn’t nearing cardiac arrest, they weren’t sick enough to be seen. There were days when I was solely responsible for a list of 50 patients and had to manage the ward round. These incidents are no longer the exception. My own response was to fight for more senior cover and to change the system. But I was handed the number for occupational health and told it was my problem for being unable to cope with the pressures. There was no acknowledgement of a desperately failing system.
After having a child and going part-time, I decided to move into general practice . Suddenly I was faced with another problem: I was unable to get appropriate training. I had two years’ experience in A&E and obstetrics; I identified that I would need more time in psychiatry, elderly care and paediatrics, specialties requiring more work in the community. Instead, I was informed by my training provider that I was required to work in A&E again as this was where there was most need. And, despite being part-time with a one-year-old child and a husband training in a hospital 50 miles away, I was expected to work the full range of shifts and weekends. Due to doctor shortages, working part-time wasn’t an option; I was pressured to work longer hours than I felt able, or face moving 50 miles in the opposite direction to my family.
The stress of this unsupportive environment left me close to emotional burnout and revisiting a counsellor to find out “what was wrong with me” and why I couldn’t mould my attitude to the requirements of the service. Sitting in her office and reflecting, I realised that wanting to care for patients and do the job I had trained to do was normal; wanting to live with my family, raise my own child and work part-time wasn’t far-fetched. That’s when I decided to quit. The sense of relief in that moment far outweighed any guilt for abandoning the sinking ship.
The current climate within the NHS and doctors’ training is dire. Professional training needs to be more flexible to encourage a balanced approach for working mothers, and to reflect the needs of trainee GPs, not acute hospital staff shortages. The situation is not sustainable and compromised care is a burden on patients and doctors alike.
I have swapped my stethoscope for paintbrushes and school runs as I build my own art and design business and continue being a mum and wife. Leaving the NHS was the hardest decision of my life. Recently, I was stopped in the street by a former patient who thanked me for my care in her hour of need. I can at least walk away knowing that my time as a doctor was not wasted. I was good at what I did, but the fight of being a doctor in a struggling NHS is not what I trained to do.
Source: the Guardian 

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Updated: December 14, 2017 — 5:58 pm

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