Becoming a joyful doctor
Dr Caroline Walker, the Joyful Doctor is on a mission to provide mentoring to doctors and help them realise just how amazing they really are.
Have you ever wondered if medicine was the right career choice for you?
Have you ever felt like an imposter and like other doctors just ‘get it’?
Have you ever felt overwhelmed at work?
I have felt all of those things many, many times…
I have wanted to be a doctor since I was six years old, but when I finally got there aged 24, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was really scared. I struggled with the workload, the pressures, and the emotional burden. Most of all I struggled with my own head. I thought I was rubbish, not good enough, an imposter – bound to get ‘found out’ at any moment and struck off for being ‘a bad doctor’. I was a perfectionist so I just pushed myself harder and harder to try to keep up. Things got so bad that I burned out. I got very depressed and I drank way too much to try and cope.
My twenties turned into a blur of depressive episodes and trying to fit in, trying to ‘do life’ the way I thought I ‘should’. My thirties didn’t start much better – with episodes of high mood, an unexpected pregnancy and a sad divorce. But through it all I clung in there, always trying, always working to improve myself, to understand myself better… Until one day I’d done just enough work on myself to realise: I am OK – just the way I am (and I always was!).
I started to relax, to drop the responsibilities that weren’t mine to start with (like making other people happy) and I started taking responsibility for myself. I learned how to put my own health first, putting down my addictive behaviors and starting to live the life I had always wanted to. I started taking healthy risks instead of unhealthy ones. Life began to open up and bring me happiness I never thought was possible.
I got my dream job training in Medical Psychotherapy (doing psychotherapy as a doctor) and started to specialise in my one true passion – Doctors’ Wellbeing. I wanted to help others as I had been helped over the years. And that is what I have been doing for the last few years… working with doctors, helping them to look after themselves as well as they look after their patients. I help those who are struggling with therapy, and those who want to shake their lives up a bit with mentoring… mentoring my juniors, peers and even senior colleagues to take simple but life-changing steps towards a happier life as a doctor (working inside and outside of medicine!).
Then one day in early 2017 I started to feel uneasy. I was looking ahead and contemplating my final year of training before becoming a consultant and I realised – I just wasn’t looking forward to it. I still loved my job – in fact I was really excited about my final year of training and the opportunities it would bring – but… well.. it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t make me want to leap out of bed in the morning and that uneasy feeling just grew day by day…
I started to think about what was next for me – when I finished my training – what would I do? I had taken a Career Break (an OOPC) in my earlier training and had run several successful businesses as a Professional Declutterer, Bespoke Card Designer and Business Coach – so I knew the possibilities were endless… I knew in my heart I was going to do something pretty special (and maybe quite scary!) and I knew it would have Doctors’ Wellbeing at the very heart… but I just couldn’t put my finger on it…
Enter stage left: The Mentors…
Two incredible mentors – one a medic, one not. One free, one not. One for just four hours, one for a whole year. And between them and I, over a period of just a few weeks – I went from Medical Psychotherapy trainee on the path to consultant to ‘The Joyful Doctor’ – on a massive mission to help doctors around the world to live happier lives!
People are constantly asking me
What is ‘The Joyful Doctor’? What do you do?
and I’m still perfecting the strap line! Meanwhile here is the completely honest garbled version just for you…
I want to help doctors around the world to realise just how amazing they really are. I want YOU to realise just how amazing you really are! I want you to know that a career in medicine doesn’t limit you to working in medicine. That burnout is not an inevitable consequence of crappy working conditions and a passion for helping others. I want every doctor out there to hear that it is OK, in fact it is normal and common, to struggle sometimes. And it is more than OK to get help – when you’re well and when you’re unwell. I want every doctor to have somewhere to go to look for help, support, and inspiration… I want every doctor to know the power of mentoring and training that is designed specifically for them. Training and mentoring that can help you reconnect to your passions so that you can make the most incredible difference in the world – doing exactly what you love!
It is possible for you to be a Joyful Doctor too – whether you work in medicine or not!
Check out Caroline’s highly useful Ebook – Top 5 Mistakes Doctors Make in career change