I’ve written about taking time away from medicine as a student, but what about when you’re in the workforce?
It can be slightly more complex once you’re a junior doc in training. But, not impossible (and many people have done it).
My number one tip is timing. Before, during and after medical school is the easiest time for a gap year. After completing internship and residency (in Australia the first two years) is another great time to do it.
Here are some tips for having a year away as a doc
- Time it well – try to complete internship at least to get general registration before a year away. Completing residency will be an added plus
- Get your references lined up before departing – let them know your plans
- If you want to work casually you can sign up to a locum agency or ask your current work for any casual positions
- Keep note of important dates for the next clinical year (if you’re planning to go back)
- Research your chosen specialty and ask around
- Know registration requirements for your state/country (in Aus there are new requirements as of January 2023 relating to continued professional development)
Specialty training and gap years
I understand taking time off isn’t feasible for everyone. If you’re planning to be a plastic surgeon, this blog post probably isn’t for you. For me, I see it as invaluable life experience where you can learn about a wealth of other things. Unfortunately, not every specialty in medicine looks at time off as a good thing.
No specialty discriminates against people who take time off before, during or after medical school. This is a great time to plan a sabbatical, especially if you have your heart set on a more competitive specialty.
Specialties that are sabbatical friendly:
- Basic Physician Training (getting onto BPT is straight forward, after this it becomes tricky and competitive)
- Emergency Medicine
- General Practice
- Medical Administration
- Occupational and Environmental Medicine
- Palliative Medicine
- Public Health
- Rehabilitation Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynaecology
- Intensive Care Medicine
- Sport and Exercise Medicine
Specialties that are less friendly to gap years:
These are more difficult because of the competitive nature of these specialties. Maybe if you pair the year away with research, conferences and/or postgraduate studies you can make the year off be seen favourably.
- Radiation Oncology
Depends on pathway
- Addiction Medicine
- Pain Medicine
- Sexual Health Medicine
Top tips to make a year off work
- Change your mind set – hopping off the conveyor belt can make you rethink your surroundings and choices
- Let go – maybe you won’t be a consultant by the age of 30, is that such a bad thing?
- Don’t ask other people for approval – this can likely lead to self-doubt and disappointment
- WORK (and save) – working towards a goal is super motivating. Saving for your time off is worth it in the long run
- Defer, decline, resign – the key part of the sabbatical is organising the year off. Whether that be deferring university, declining your job offer, or resigning
- Trust the process – it can be scary and overwhelming to leave your classmates or colleagues to do something different. Trust that things will work out
- Focus on the present – worrying about the future isn’t going to change much. Focusing on the here and now will help with mindfulness and combat anxiety
- Research your specialty – certain specialties are more friendly towards sabbaticals. Do some reading first. Maybe add a small medical related side project to show professional development
- Know registration requirements – you have three years to do internship after graduating university. Australia will implement new requirements as of January 2023. Keep up your CPD to avoid issues on returning.