Are medical students considering alternative careers?

A medical student feeling semi-isolating about their future career path as they share their advice to other medical students considering alternative careers

The following post is written anonymously by a medical student

As a fourth year medical student it’s hard to ignore the entire junior doctor contract debacle and the widespread dissatisfaction among junior doctors across the country.

After all, these junior doctors are extremely talented and caring individuals that had already carved out their career plans and have already dedicated years of their lives in training, providing patient care. Surely things must be quite bad if they are expressing their dissatisfaction and many are leaving their career at this stage?

Though it might seem surprising, I admit that I find myself almost semi-isolated in considering alternative careers.

Most of my fellow medical students seem largely undeterred by the challenges ahead and the many faults within the NHS system, with no plans of changing country or career whatsoever.

It’s unsurprising therefore that on reflection I almost feel as if I should have been less naive about Medicine as a career back when I was applying to medical school at 17/18 years old. Blessed with good grades and a warm personality, I thought (and was encouraged by others) that Medicine would have provided a fitting and rewarding career; but with hundreds of current doctors expressing their dissatisfaction, at times, that ideal career seems far from reality.

But what would be a rewarding career?

Making a positive difference to people’s lives is surely at the top of my list and something a career in Medicine will always provide. However, I find that this aspect in itself becomes less rewarding in light of several issues- such as the relatively low financial reward, the poor work-life balance and yes, the often ridiculous exam, courses and portfolio requirements and fees.

At a time when tuition fees are £9000 a year, post graduate exams, courses and portfolios collectively cost thousands of pounds and house prices are far the beyond the reach of many, it would be unwise for current students to not consider finances as important.

I was surprised to learn that an increasing number of doctors are now accessing the BMA hardship fund, something by principle, I think shouldn’t have to even exist. If you’re a medical student and happen to find yourself occasionally giving thought to alternative career paths like myself, here are few points to help add clarity to your thinking.

First, identify what exactly you want from your career.

In this respect, Medic Footprints offers fantastic information and advice on their website and at their events. I’d also recommend asking your doctor colleagues about their careers and ask for their input on your next steps. You’ll undoubtedly get lots of opinions and some might even appear shocked about you contemplating a career outside the NHS.

Take each of their inputs with a grain of salt and I’m confident you can filter what you think is genuine, useful advice and what isn’t. There are also plenty of resources online to help you browse other careers and these will help you to determine whether you’d actually like to leave the NHS and work elsewhere (also realise that this contract may or may not be enforced and even if it is, it may or may not even last for long).

Lastly, I would end by saying that you, as a future medical graduate, are very valuable whatever career you eventually decide to pursue. If there is anything that is near certain in this climate of uncertainty, is that you are capable of succeeding in whatever career you eventually choose (sounds cliché, I know!).

I’ll end this entry with relevant extracts from the amazing speech Steve Jobs gave to graduating Stanford students at his ‘Commencement Address’. This was before he shortly passed away after from pancreatic cancer. Here are just a few of his wise words.

‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle… Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish…’

Wishing you all the best success.


For more advice and inspiration, check out our medical student section.

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Abeyna Bubbers-Jones

Abeyna is the Founder & Director of Medic Footprints and a Consultant Physician in Occupational Health