Balanced Medics was born from my own personal experiences and feelings as a junior doctor.
There were many moments in my medical career, from med school to now, where I’ve struggled. Certain roadblocks were expected, others completely surprised me. Another big revelation was the fact that it’s normal to find things difficult. You’re definitely not the only one.
Sometimes it can seem that the traditional path is the only path in medicine. It’s often well trodden and the most spoken about. However, there are countless avenues in life that can take us to unexpected places! I love learning about all the different roads medics have travelled and want to make them better known.
Balanced Medics is on a mission to create a community that is open to vulnerability, celebrating all of ourselves and exploring all the different possibilities available for us.
My own struggles as a student
In medical school I actually did well academically and from the outside I possibly looked like I was thriving.
I remember one of my friends saying “I had it all”.
On the inside, that statement felt very far from the truth.
The theoretical years of medical school were the most straight forward for me. I enjoy learning and it was similar to high school, just more flexible.
When it changed to full time clinical I began to waiver. It was a huge learning curve, and being an introvert, it was difficult to be assertive on the wards. I felt like I had to constantly make good first impressions with different people. It caused me a great deal of stress.
I was a teenager (starting med school at 17), so emotionally I was immature and quite naive.
Some rotations were particularly challenging and I dreaded showing up. Certain doctors taught by humiliation, and I began to develop a lot of self-doubt. Maybe they were right and I was stupid? My inner critic became louder.
Often, as a student, you can feel ‘in the way’. It can feel awkward at times, shadowing people without knowing what you should do. I didn’t feel confident in my abilities and questioned what I was doing in medical school. I wasn’t sure I had what it took to be a doctor.
At the time, I felt like I was the only student struggling, but looking back, I’m sure that many of my colleagues felt similarly.
Internship and residency
Internship was a new steep learning curve. Just when I felt comfortable as a student, the responsibility level was increased.
Though interns aren’t expected to be ‘in charge’ and are almost always supervised, there were moments where I definitely felt out of my depth.
On the bell curve below I was scoring in the strain/burnout area, very high pressure and feelings of low performance.
Another intern commented that I “had my life figured out” during this time. Which really surprised me. Again an outside perspective thinking that I was running along smoothly, no issues.
While inside, I certainly didn’t feel that way.
I completed internship during the first waves of COVID-19, which added a whole other dimension of stress and unknown to my situation. There was constant understaffing issues, and it was exhausting covering multiple teams regularly.
Speaking out aloud – not the only one
On a particularly difficult day in internship, I voiced my frustrations. I’d been pulling crazy hours, hadn’t had a sip of water or a bite to eat. There was a pile of outstanding discharge summaries, my pager was going off, emergency calls, needing to go to theatre. It was all so overwhelming.
As I was trying to sort through my to-do list I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know if I can do this!”
To my surprise, every single doctor in that room looked up and said, “wow you feel like that too?”
That’s when I realised that I wasn’t the only one, everyone was feeling exactly the same way. There’s something incredibly reassuring about that. That you’re not the only doctor or medical student who is finding it difficult. You’re human. And what’s being asked of you a lot of the time can seem only possible if done by super-humans.
Medicine isn’t easy. It’s normal to have bad days. Especially when it’s 5pm and you haven’t passed urine, drunk water or eaten since 5am. It’s okay to not be okay all the time.
Exploring the possibilities
In 2022, I’ve been exploring all of the possibilities that exist for docs. It’s unlimited!
It really is.
There’s not only the well-known specialties, there’s ones that you may not have even heard of, non-clinical jobs, and something else altogether. I’ve found researching these different avenues has sparked a passion in me, and I hope to continue to learn more about it. To share with you too!
Read this great article by Dr Evgenia Galinskaya if you want to see why you shouldn’t google “alternative careers for doctors”. It highlights how we don’t need to put any limitations on ourselves.
PGY3 – the Doctors’ Heath Service discovery
Another surprise for me, I had no idea they existed until now.
Wow, I wish I knew about them when I was in medical school! Their existence is concrete proof that we know doctors need doctors too.
No more superhero myth, we’re human, just like everyone else and at times we need some help.
This has spurred me on to spread the word, especially to medical students. Like preventative medicine, it’s better to care for your wellbeing when you’re well, than start in the midst of burnout.
I don’t want another doctor or medical student to go through difficult times and feel alone, without support.
You’re not the only one, I went through it too. There is help out there if you need it, and there is no shame in asking for it.
Beyond preventing burnout, I believe we can thrive and all design a life that suits our values. Let’s find what resonates with us.